WHERE IS CHURCH IN THE BIBLE?!

We have spent our lives trying to be good Christians that “go to church”. However, you would be hard pressed to find anything that looks like modern day American church anywhere in the pages of the Bible. It might even surprise you to know that the word “church” isn’t in the Bible. We have created the traditional concept of what we call church.

What about the texts where we literally read the word church in nearly all translations such as the infamous Matthew 16:18 in the NASB? “Upon the Rock I will build my church”? Or how about the beginning of Philemon when it clearly states the church as a home meeting? Let me better explain.

In the greek we usually see the word ekkelsia/ekklésia and in Hebrew the word typically translated as church is qehelah. But Jesus never used these words to describe the congregations of people that came to Him. One of my life Mantras has always been to try to figure out exactly what God desires of us. I have written books and countless articles on the subject; what are God’s ideals in our life? If we were to follow exactly what God is asking and Jesus’ calling to live as wholly devoted disciples what would it look like; specifically in this article what would the coming together of believers and the unity of the body best look like. Would it still resemble and Old Testament torah observant festival schedule or perhaps look like a more evolved version of family meetings in people’s houses? Or if the great commission is successful, would we naturally arrive at the concept of the great American mega church?

In the Old Testament we have Torah. Torah explains how the community of believers might live towards a life that points to holiness and purification and eventually to Jesus. There were 7 festivals that the family attended, 3 of which were pilgrimage large community meetings and then the idea of coming together as a family each sabbath to stay on track with what Yahweh desired of you. It was a great mosaic life picture to stay on track with God as a stop Gap until the Messiah would once and for all act as atonement for sin. But the Torah continually encouraged all of life to surround God.

In the New Testament we get similar pictures of keeping your family on track and functioning in one accord as the body of Christ. But what we have turned this act into, (what we refer to as church), is likely far from what Jesus was asking. Did his disciples regularly attend church as we know it? Was Jesus commissioning Peter to build the modern church brought to us by Catholicism?

We have all heard and probably studied that the word mostly translated as church in the Bible is is ekklēsía, an assembly, but you might find it interesting that this Greek word is more accurately described in Greek as a non-religious assembly.  Consider its use in Acts 19:32 and other verses. So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together. Acts 19:32 NASB It is described as an angry confused mob. Well that actually might be a pretty good definition for most people’s modern day church experiences ha ha.

When we read the word ekklēsía in Greek you find it starts with the Greek word kaléō which means to call or invite, which better translates to Hebrew as qārāʾwhich is the more common word for being called. In Hebrew religious assemblies were synagogues, but this carries a problem in the first century. Synagogues became associated with Greco-Roman pagan connections to the extent that most Jews stopped using the word to describe the place where Yahweh was met. In the Greek it specifically does not mean “a religious assembly.” Synagogue meant any religious assembly; it is used far more in first century literature to describe temples for Athena or Zeus than for Yahweh. As a result, the word synagogue just migrated into a Jewish term just like ekklesia, it wasn’t Jewish to begin with.

The reason the word ekklēsía is (rightly) used is because it meant “the called-out ones.”  It is an invitation, particularly focused on God’s provision of salvation (which in Hebrew is better described as an exodus or rescue).  To be part of the body that was summoned and invited by the sovereign God for the purpose of rescue from immediate danger.  But Paul repeatedly uses the term such as in 1 Corinthians 1 to take on an exodus motif. There are several modern day Biblical scholars that have picked up on this such as Frank Viola and Francis Chan. Mark Nanos offers this:

“It is widely recognized that the first appearance of christianos postdate Paul and that he never refers to himself or anyone else by this term or its cognates.”[1]

“ . . . the term ekklesia, from which the translation ‘church’ derived, has also come to represent something that is by definition distinguishable from ‘synagogue.’ . . . ekkelsia was a term that, if not also qualified as being specifically Christ-following, would naturally be understood to represent synagogue gatherings of Jews that were not assumed to be affiliated with Christ-followers: the ekklesia were not yet what ‘church’ came to represent. Thus it is anachronistic and unhelpful for understanding Paul in his own context to use the translation ‘church’ when reading and discussing Paul and his Jewish ‘assemblies.’”[2]

What Mark, and most theologians will tell you is that church as we know it, was a religion of later gentiles, most probably the Roman Catholic Church. Paul and Jesus and the first century disciples didn’t practice this form of “church”.

Skip Moen suggests that as “This may seem bold, unsettling, even heretical. But it is heresy only if you accept the revised history of the Church. What actually happened is a matter of historical investigation. What the Church teaches is something quite different. So, who’s the heretic? Was Paul a Christian? The historical record strongly suggests that he was not, and neither were any of his compatriots. The historical record suggests that Paul never converted; he was always a Torah-observant Jew with a Jewish Messiah. The historical record recounts the creation of the Christian Church with a separate theology, Christology and ecclesiology in the mid-third and fourth centuries. So it’s time to correct the text and remove all those terms whose meaning was determined by men who never shared the faith of Paul or his Messiah.”

My problem with the great American church is that it is more worldly than it is Biblical. Didn’t Jesus preach the opposite?

Against Christianity by Peter Leithart is a penetrating examination of the difference between the post-modern view of the world and the biblical view. According to Leithart:

Modernity refers to the civilization of the West since about 1500. Culturally, modernity is characterized by “value pluralism,” which entails the privatization of religious institutions and religious claims. Every individual and every group chooses its own shared values, and civil society is the arena where those values enter into combat. Politically, modernity is shaped by “liberalism,” the political system dedicated to the one proposition that political systems must not be dedicated to one proposition.

Through its roots in the patristic period, Christianity in its more developed form is the Church’s adjustment of the gospel to modernity, and the Church’s consequent acceptance of the world’s definition of who we are and what we should be up to. Christianity is biblical religion disemboweled and emasculated by (voluntary) intellectualization and/or privatization.

Christianity is not merely haphazard embrace of the values and practices of the modern world. Worldliness in that sense has plagued the Church since Corinth and will be a temptation to the end of time. Christianity is institutionalized worldliness, worldliness accepted in principle, worldliness not at the margins but at the center, worldliness build into the foundation.[1]

Some don’t like the term Christianity anymore and I can see why. It is unfortunate that the name so closely associated with Jesus has been perpetrated by the world to represent something near counter to what Jesus taught. Leithart picks up on this. Unfortunately, Christianity is tied to the systems of the world which is what Jesus routinely spoke against. Jesus wasn’t interested in joining any systems other than the His own, the kingdom of God. Jesus calls for radical discipleship, kingdom living, and challenges the message of this world and people’s allegiances to systems, structures, and ideologies. 

Church as we know it has become much of what Jesus spoke against. It is big business with a worldwide, organized hierarchy that resembles pharisaical tradition more than anything.

Skip Moen makes another point that I have to completely agree with, “Just consider the almost universal acceptance of democracy as the proper political system of Christianity. Nothing in the biblical record supports this idea. Where did it come from? From the Greeks. The Church is not a democracy. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. But most Christians have accommodated to the state by accepting democracy as the correct political system.”

Jesus spoke of a radically different culture. It was family based with regular teaching and accountability to the body of and fellowship of believers (not the church leadership) in Him and only Him. It wasn’t about routine programming, or a schedule of events driven by what the world looks like. It was the opposite of that. Today Christians act more like Greeks following a pagan God in a pagan Temple than they do theocratic followers of the one king. Being a follower of Christ was never supposed to be aligned with being a morally upright member of a political nation. To Jesus that was described as having two masters and being a slave to something of the world. The central message of Jesus was to not conform to the world, yet this is exactly what modern American Church has done. We have built churches that look desirable to the world. Rock and roll light show events, cool Christianity, and events geared towards entertainment or prosperity over discipleship.

A BETTER VIEW

What is the answer, what is the solution? How do we get back to Jesus in one accord? Is there any room to migrate from the Torah or the New Testament Biblical model? If you want to follow God’s ideals I am afraid the unpopular answer to these questions is likely, “NO.” We were given similar models in both the Old and New Testaments and are simply asked to follow them, but in typical human fashion we think we can build a better model than what Jesus asks for. God offers a theocracy, man demands their own king, Jesus says he is the only king, we try to hire pastor kings, Jesus says leave the world on the beach and completely follow me, we want to enslave ourselves to the world for 40-50 hours a week with mortgages of enslavement up to our eyeballs. How is that God way?

In the Torah dedication to a holy God is the meaning and source of life. Nothing can take precedence over this. Everything about life itself pointed to life in Yahweh. You were surrounded by Him and the body of His people. In the first church we get the same idea. Your life existed to promote Jesus as king and deny the ways of the world.

Home church, church underground, whatever you might call it is a better picture than big business church. I like some of the aspects of American church. Perhaps some people come out of the world and find God at a traditional church first. I consider myself a missionary to the evangelical church in hopes of shepherding those that realize they are looking for a better picture of dedicated discipleship in Jesus.

The better goal of following Jesus is to live every day live as if your mission of holiness for your spiritual family was/is all you are concerned about. It is hard to imagine this calling in our American lives, in fact it would be a complete paradigm shift, totally radical. But guess what, it was the same thing in the first century. It was totally radical and completely counter cultural; yet the first century church embraced it. Today I think most evangelical Christians desire the world more than we desire Jesus.

How do we get there? Let me paint a picture.

  • Every day is completely, wholly given to Jesus and the calling to be a disciple and make a disciple by Jesus’ definition not the worlds
  • You don’t give your time, treasure, and talents to the world in any way, they are reserved solely for Jesus
  • You train up your kids as your primary responsibility and your core act of making disciples
  • You live intimately with Him and present deeper devotion to the king and His kingdom within your family and surround yourself with one accord of a body of believers that think the same way.
  • Don’t be immersed in the world, let the world find Jesus through you. Offer living water at each and every opportunity. You don’t need to drink the worlds water anymore.
  • Bring your gifts to and for the body each and every day
  • Meet regularly as a spiritual family communing with Jesus as a central strand of life together
  • Your best should be given to Jesus, everything points that way
  • Work repeatedly and regularly to present yourself completely devoted to Him (a living sacrifice) and your spiritual family of disciples
  • Get back to God’s ideals, perhaps 7 feasts for 7 days and each sabbath together; or perhaps that was just the beginning of what God wants. Eventually in a recreated heaven and earth we are going to be in fellowship not just 7×7 but completely. That should be the goal today too, not once a week, but wholly given in complete life pursuit. That is the thrust of the New Covenant disciple, not just a tithe, or a first fruit, but all in all the time.

What would it look like if your spiritual family lived this way. Can you imagine it? Could you survive in America? What if you had 10 families that made this commitment. Your gifts enabled housing out of debt. (pipedream, impossible? I think your limiting yourself and God) You shared what was “needed”; you provided for not only your own but the others. You all learned to live this way. I would actually venture to say that it is not only possible but is the ONLY Biblical model and is a recipe for amazing life in Jesus. You might conduct a business but it is surrounded together in Jesus. Maybe the Amish building houses together weren’t too far off from a New Testament picture of working together, they just got hung up on legalism along the way.

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BRING YOUR GIFTS

or the body is not one member, but many. 1 Corinthians 12:14 NASB

Modern church looks very different than New Testament church did. 2-3 times a year we have an EXPEDITION 44 range night loosely associated with the Hebrew calendar and based on a more Biblical style of worship (such as God instructed during the OT festivals) and the NT church continued. This year we have shifted the date to this Friday Night June 3 as Shavuot this year is recognized from Sunset Saturday June 4 until Monday Evening June 6.

But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost. 1 Corinthians 16:8 NASB

Pentecost or Shavuot?  Most people have never stopped to consider this simple statement. Devout Jews calendar things different than the rest of the world. Everything is in reference to the OT calendar that God gave in the Torah, the Jewish sequence of Festivals. Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals from Exodus 34. It is 50 days after the start of Pesach (Lev 23) which is when the Torah was given on Sinai.

When you pause to consider Paul’s statement above, you probably go right to Acts 2 and pentecost. The crowd was gathered to celebrate Shavuot which is where the spirit chose to descend and give us the New Testament idea of Pentecost (which wouldn’t be widely celebrated by the church until 200 years after this was written.) Interesting that After Paul clearly becomes a “CHRISTIAN”, yet he is still celebrating the Shavuot. You see Paul (and Jesus) never abolished Torah or God’s ideals. In fact, Paul is always considering how to live as a set apart person only given to what God desires of him.

Just to be clear, Paul and Jesus were both clear that Christians not be legalistic in following tradition. The focus is that they both recognized that they needed to be immersed in God’s ideals and His world and not the ideals of the world. Jesus isn’t simply better, Jesus’ way is the ONLY way.

As we meet again at the EXPEDITION 44 Range worship nights this is and has always been our focus. Let’s get back to what God says is His way.

I Corinthians 12-14 give us framework for coming together under God’s Ideals. He starts out with, “For the body is not one member, but many.” 1 Corinthians 12:14 NASB

Most of us have heard the terminology of the church our entire lives; the church as the bride, one body, the people not the place, we are the church, or perhaps words of order, unity, or in one accord – but we don’t actually believe it or live it. Corinth was a rowdy mess. Yet Paul shepherds the shepherds. He teaches to be like Christ in mercy, grace, obedience, and love. He calls them to order, but by God’s definition to bring order to chaos from the beginning of time; not in the worldly mindset of hierarchy and/or superiority. Their order should be brought according to their gifts, what God designed them to present. He is also clear that anything outside of this form is or will be spiritually abusive. Jesus is the only Head of the church, everyone else is simply a member of the congregation. No one person is spiritually superior over the others. Elders shepherd (verb) those that shepherd. We are all called to shepherd. No one is to “rule over” another. As those of a priestly position in Christ we can only reign and rule in Him. Each member fulfills tasks that together represent the body of Christ through edification, instruction, and the presenting of at least the 22 gifts mentioned (which we pray for a double portion to be applied through God and get 44!) This is the Biblical definition of worship – 44- an expedition of complete lifelong worship.

This Friday night we are asking everyone to consider what they will bring to contribute. How is the Spirit (it is pentecost!!!) leading you to participate as the body? Will you bring food? Will you share a prophetic word? Will you bring edification or healing? Will you admonish with your lips? Will you testify? What has God given you to bring forth?

Too often we have been conditioned by the modern church to think that serving at church means we “work or toil” and aren’t actually part of the church worship “experience” when we are serving. We say things like we are going to serve at the first service and attend the second. Don’t get me started. Ha ha. We are asking for everyone to be “all in” this Friday night.

Let’s take a look at the verse above again, “For the body is not one member, but many.” (1 Corinthians 12:14). When Paul says “not one” he uses the greek word “ouk.” This is the strongest Greek word possible to mean NOT or negative. In the Bible there are 1634 uses of the word “not” and this is the strongest! Not one but many, “polla.” In other words, Paul is STRONGLY telling us we need to equally come before the Lord bearing what has been uniquely gifted to you to the body in one accord. It is coincidence that the spirit chose the day of Shavuot to “rain” down on us as we “reign” together in Christ and only in Him. You are tailored to bring a gift, and not just one, but many of different flavors, seasons, and descriptions continually. Throw off whatever has been holding you back (hierarchy, ideas of what serving should be, those looking down on you, youth, reprisal of silent encouragement/discouragement); bring what you have been given, and bring it to its best.

Shavuot in the OT was a shadow of what was to come in the Messiah. It was by the Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Shavuot) that God inscribed his Law in their hearts. We are called to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and obey him in all areas of our life. From the inside out, he changes us into the likeness of Christ – equally contributing in one accord of the body. The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of adoption who witnesses to our spirit that we indeed have left the world and our past behind and instead now have a new identity as children of God (Romans 8:15).

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BE A CHALLENGER

I did 1000 pushups last Saturday to kickoff summer. Yep, that’s not a typo! Will has done 200 a day for over a year without missing a single day and Ty won the national guard push-up pull-up challenge last year. Kade and Reid are also right there with us! Our family does thousands of push-ups and pull ups every summer. It connects us as a family (and others that join us in our spiritual family in this pursuit); and builds confidence, camaraderie, and “challenge” to our relationships. A few days after I did 1000 one of my best friends (Phil) and his boys that have joined us in this pursuit over the past years decided he was going to match my challenge. I joined Him in the challenge and by 5:00 we had hit our 1000. Then we decided we could do more and by 8:00 we found ourselves spurring each other on to finish 1500 together. This is the kind of challenger that the Bible encourages each of us to be to one another.

“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord, “That you will call Me Ishi and will no longer call Me Baali.” Hosea 2:16 NASB

Ishi – “For Hosea, at the core of Baal worship is the primitive idea that God rules the world by force, as husbands rule families in societies where power determines the structure of relationships. Against this, Hosea paints a quite different possibility, of a relationship between marriage partners built on love and mutual loyalty. God is not Baal, He-who-rules-by-force, but Ish, He-who-relates-in-love, the very word Adam used when he first saw Eve. The God to whom we speak in prayer is not the ultimate power but the ultimate person, the Other in whom I find myself.”[1]

God isn’t a cosmic moral policeman, that is an unbiblical pagan idea that is the opposite of what God does and who He is. Jesus continually set the record straight and he deliberately changed the perceived hierarchy of master-slave to teacher-friend in John 15:15. Hierarchy in the church and spiritual family is the world not God.

Hosea 2:16 is a rare occurrence where the Hebrew word isn’t translated in English, we just read the Hebrew and it is intentional as the Hebrew slang. Ish(i) is a Hebrew word of exclaimed joy in the presence of another. It is also the Hebrew word for husband. In this way it is a contronym. It can mean an extreme of something one way or the other. It’s asking God to take your worst curse and turn it into your greatest joy. In a similar way, it can also be used as a slang word in Hebrew for acting childish. Women would roll their eyes an say iiiiish. That’s were we get that expression. The word challenger is also a Biblical contronym. A challenger can be someone that brings out the best in a person or one that reduces them.

Family, specifically marriage under God, (but also within the church family narrative) shouldn’t be based on power. In our spiritual family, push-ups represent the opposite of what they do to the world. They don’t show strength or a challenge to beat someone in our family; they show a challenge to encourage and promote each other. To help each other rise to what others think is impossible. It’s a continual picture (mosaic) of what God wants to do in us. To take us farther in Christ, spurring each other on to be better for the kingdom. In Christ our spiritual family is unified to bring out the best on each other. It’s the opposite of what the world defines as a “challenge;” and in the same way that God challenges opposite of what the world thinks. God isn’t continually policing us, He is continually “challenging” us to be better in Him, and asking us to be like Him in our relationship with others in His kingdom.

The Biblical idea of marriage within covenant relationship and the church as the bride of Christ isn’t based on power. Ish(i) (my spouse) is based on the excitement of finding myself challenged and edified, and admonished by the other person.

I am who I am because of who she/we are in Christ. I have learned a lot from boys. Every person has the ability to bring anyone else to a better place regardless of “status.”

Paul says the same thing when he speaks of mutual submission in marriage (Ephesians 5:21). Domination is not love. God is love and teaches us the opposite… to challenge or lead by edification and servant hood. Lead like Jesus as a backwards picture of what the world says leadership looks like.

Be a challenger today by Jesus’ definition and not the worlds. Challenge others to be more like Him.

[1] Jonathan Sacks, Radical Then, Radical Now, p. 84. 

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THE OFFICE OF PASTOR?

-Contrasting the New Testament church and the Modern American Church

There are several reasons why the church today, particularly in American doesn’t resemble the New Testament church, but the main reason stems from the top. Let’s start with the idea of the hierarchical Pastor and I’ll briefly touch on a couple other reasons that are also connected.

THE PROBLEM OF HEIRARCHY AND THE OFFICE OF THE PASTOR

The great American church has built a hierarchy within the body of Christ that never existed in the New Testament church. We have senior or lead pastors, administrative pastors, Associate Pastors, youth Pastors, worship pastors, and several others often described as pastors. These are all steps to get to the top as within any American business. Start as the youth pastor and maybe someday you will be a lead pastor. We have almost entirely replaced the giving of gifts by the body of Christ by simply accepting gifts from those we have been placed in positions within the hierarchy of the church. In the Old Testament we have shepherds that were associated with leaders of Men in various ways, but in the New Testament Jesus is the great shepherd. He becomes the only shepherd we are looking for in the same way that our bodies replace the temple as the place His Spirit resides. We aren’t looking for a new shepherd or a new Temple and to do so would be contrary to what Jesus asks of us.

From the first pages of the Bible, humankind was created with the intention to be set apart as a royal priesthood. That meant their job was originally to rule and reign, keeping and cultivating the sacred ways of the Lord God almighty devoted to intimate relationship with the father. The role of the royal priesthood is to bring the people of the world to the Lord and represent the Lord to the world as His ambassadors. All of this would be lost in the fall but will eventually be regained. The Bible is the story of that love plan to regain what was lost. Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22 show the bookends, the plan humankind was made for. Everything else in the middle is the downward spiral of what is being claimed by the world in the Old Testament and then the beginning of the upward trajectory of the New Coevenant back to the Edenic like plan in the recreated heaven and earth near the end of Revelation.

The problem is that we get so off course in the middle. Things get far from the ideal plan or picture that God wants and designed for us. But our part as the royal priesthood is to be devoted to God’s ideal plans and not get taken away by the things of the world. The plan of the world and fallen principalities is to take what is holy and decimate and defile it. The greatest thing the devil ever accomplished was to convince the church that the worlds ways could be integrated into the modern church. The devil loves to mimic what is holy with what is unholy. This problem has set the course of the entire church body astray from the plan they were created for. The American Church today resembles a secular business model far more than it resembles the New Testament model church and more importantly, what Jesus asks of us.

One example of this “getting off course” is the way the world and specifically, the American church has turned the humble role of a servant shepherd into a lording worldly king. God’s ways were to use shepherds (those who cultivate) to humbly represent his kingdom in the Old Testament. The picture of this rule is backwards to what man’s idea of ruling looks like. The “backwards [leading] role of a shepherd” will begin to shape the way we think of servant leadership preparing the way for the Messiah. Jesus came and completely gave of himself in humility to the cross and asks us to be the church in the same way. Today the church looks more like “lord” in charge of a castle, an Old Testament king that led Israel away from the Lord, or a modern CEO. You might say most churches and their leadership look nothing like the model given to us in the New Testament of the body of Christ as the church.

In Israel, man wanted their own way and their own people to rule as a king and kingdom. This was a slap in the face to God. If we learn anything at all from the Old Testament and the story of wayward Israel, it should be that the course they chose to take was nearly the exact opposite direction that God had desired for them. The way Israel rejected God would foreshadow the way the world would reject Jesus. When Jesus comes onto the scene, those He had the most difficult time with were the ones that should have loved Him the most, the organized religious systems of His day. Thats because they claimed to represent His father’s name but were actually as far from His father’s ideals as they possibly could be. It was them that inevitably put Jesus on the cross. Today the church isn’t doing much better. We claim the name of Jesus but live nearly entirely by worldly standards. We hire “kings” to “rule” the church using worldly tactics which paints a picture not much different from what Israel chose to do; to replace God with a man and history has proven that this leads away from God not towards Him.

CHURCH HISTORY

The church didn’t have a singular leader until at least A.D. 120 when Rome decided they should. Unfortunately, the government wanted a say in religion. Up until the 3rd century, churches shared a family atmosphere with more shared responsibilities and no singular leadership. Both Justin (A.D. 155) and Tertullian (c. A.D. 200) refer to the leader of a Sunday meeting as “the president” which during this period was defined as “whoever happens to be presiding at the meeting.”

As churches grew in size, Rome decided they should be ruled by a bishop who would be called from the nearest large city and would serve as overseer of the whole area. Overseers with this kind of territory were called metropolitans. By the time of the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, the bishop of Alexandria ruled over all of Egypt and the Roman overseer over an undisclosed area. This marked the end of the first century Christ ordained New Testament model church. This also paved the way for the “modern” hierarchy of pastoral leadership.

PASTOR ISN’T A POSITION OF THE NT CHURCH

I am sure this will come as a surprise to many readers, but the word “pastor” doesn’t exist in the New Testament and arguably in the entire Bible. We get close once and that is in Ephesians 4:11-12. You might notice that when you carefully read this that it is in the plural, might seem like splitting hairs but technically it is a different word. The “S” is important.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. (Eph 4:11-12)

τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους

When I read this verse (particularly in Greek), my eyebrow raises. Notice there is a pattern that hinges around τοὺς.  It’s the article, the “the.”  In Greek this better reads, “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastor, teacher.” The article is not present before the teacher.  Instead, it’s καὶ, which is “and.”  Pastor, teacher. Harold Hoehner says this pattern “is to mark out distinctly different gifted people without implying a contrast as it would have in earlier Greek” (Ephesians, 2002).   Hoerner also argues that Paul is not listing offices, but gifts.  The context of Ephesians 4 is the gifting of the church; the entire section is talking about the gifts of the church not the positions of the church. When you read it this way, pastor because an adjective that describes the gift of teaching. The word we think of as the role of pastor (shepherd) isn’t a position in the new Testament, the only shepherd needed is Jesus. Every believer is asked to take on the person of Jesus and the term shepherd is the adjective that describes what our lives look like when we best reflect him; we become images of the great shepherd.

When most people use the term pastor (that specifically isn’t anywhere in the Bible) they are referring to the Biblical word shepherd. The Greek word for shepherd (poimén) occurs less than 20 times in the Bible and takes on an Old Testament meaning. In the book of Luke the term referred to those literal Old Testamant “shepherds” who visit Jesus at birth, but in every other gospel as well as Hebrews and 1 Peter the term shepherd always means Jesus. Matthew 9 shows Christ as a compassionate shepherd, John 10 identifies Jesus laying down his life like a good shepherd. At the end of John we see Jesus challenging Peter three times to prove his Love. Many see this as Jesus commissioning Peter to lead the church but this is problematic. The text never suggests this. Jesus asks him to affirm three times that he will tend His sheep. Three is a number of completeness. Jesus regularly asks the disciples to be all in, that was His definition to the core of discipleship. Jesus is shrewdly asking Peter to be “all in” as He follows and models Jesus (after His betrayal showed otherwise). He became an intricate part of the first church but not as the main leader or pope or lead pastor. He was simply a disciple asked to model Jesus who along with the rest of the disciples followed through in the commissioning by Jesus.

Paul describing the gifts to be given to the church and in the same way describes a function not a position. This is a good time to mention that there are 22 gifts mentioned here (not just the famous 5 you might here regularly preached as the five fold ministry of the church.) This is also one of the meanings of expedition 44. There are 22 gifts and we pray for a double portion of blessing over them giving us a metaphorical 44. It is also worth noting that the gifts are gender neutral and come with no qualifications.

There is a calling to model Jesus to every believer to “shepherd” those entrusted to them as disciples. That is the Jesus model. To be a disciple and lead others by “shepherding” them to also live by the definition of discipleship according to Jesus. In this sense, shepherding is a description of how we disciple. In a similar way in Acts 20 Paul exhorts elders to watch over themselves and the flock as a shepherd would, but the reference goes back to Jesus. Jesus is the shepherd that is over the church, the elder is simply functioning as one who takes on the example of Jesus in their mentoring roles. I Peter 5 carries the same notion.

In the Ancient Near East shepherds led their sheep to pasture and water and away from harm. They carried the weak and wounded, the sought out the lost and hurting. And when needed, they made the sacrifices for the sake of the sheep. Most Old Testament shepherds WOULD NOT have given their life for a sheep. That kind of thinking was crazy in context. Why would a human give his life for a simple sheep? But this thought gave way to the backward kingdom that Jesus would take on. In this way Elders take on the physical function of what Jesus does as the great shepherd for his Sheep. Why would the almighty God give Himself for meer man, it is crazy backwards of what the world says makes sense. Jesus was setting the record straight. The original function of the humble shepherd was to be a complete instrument of God in physical form on earth. It wasn’t a function of God but rather what God does in and of Himself through humankind functioning as the body of Christ.

It is interesting that the prophet Ezekiel also referred to the political rulers of Israel as bad “shepherds,” and declared that God would take the flock away from them and tend the sheep himself in Ezekiel 34:1-16. Eventually this is Jesus.

The gifts are given to edify the body. Elders were raised up from the church and not imported as missionaries. There is also no reason to believe in the Bible that they were ever supported monetarily. Missionaries were supported minimally to start churches. The Old Testament used the term shepherd that people would have understood the function of as a shadow of the great shepherd Jesus within a counter cultural context of humility to the cross. To take on the term shepherd is actually a form of idolatry, it implies we are “the God.” It also should carry a bad Old Testament connotation; it was a term for the king of Israel that drew people away from God. No one would walk around and say they are “the king” because they are modeling the king (Jesus). That would sound insane! Yet that is what we do when we say we are the shepherd of the church. There is only one king and one shepherd of the New Covenant Church and that is Jesus. You can and should “shepherd” but to call yourself “a” or “the” shepherd is a slap in the face to Jesus. You’re not the king of any castle in the kingdom of Jesus and you’re not the shepherd. You are part of the royal kingdom, and the spiritual great shepherd, but to claim you are the shepherd or the king is idolatry and treason to the only king and shepherd.

ELDERS

Elder and shepherd are two different words in the Bible. They aren’t synonymous, if they were they would be the same word. This is simple hermeneutics. Elders had strict qualifications and were literally “older men.” To be clear an Elder shepherded in the same way as others functioned as shepherds, but likely shepherded the shepherds. They had the experience to model Christ better.

It isn’t simply ironic that the Greek word translated as Elder, presbyteros means exactly that in every extra Biblical and Biblical source of the first century! It literally means older person. We often try to make a position out of the text that would never have been considered that way in the first century church. Those that took responsibility over the house churches and met the Biblical qualifications of purity (and likely had invested the time to be discipled) were given the responsibility to shepherd/mentor those individual house churches. James 5:14 and I Tim 5:17 and every other passage I have ever studied reads this way.

There is an argument here for a “position” of Elder, but notice the text never actually tells us that it is a position. If that was the intention, wouldn’t the Bible be more clear about something so important as the leadership of the church? Personally I don’t think that is the best interpretation. But it’s worth noting. Jesus is the only king and shepherd but never makes claim to be the “ONLY” elder of the church. Some churches make the Biblical word Elder into an office and as it may not be the exact intention of the text, but it is permissible in my opinion. The problem is it continues to create hierarchy in the church that I see as not being the Biblical model. It is better to simply interpret elder to mean an older person who if meets the qualifications shepherds those who shepherd. In other words, not all older people will shepherd the shepherds, but those older people who meet the qualifications will and should. This is set apart (priestly) thinking, not hierarchical thinking. In the Old Testament the original plan was for everyone to be priests, but as a result of fall only some elders functioned this way. In the New Testament Jesus realigns our trajectory to get back to the original ideal that we will all be priests; but there are still effects of the fall being reclaimed. As time goes on we should be getting closer to the picture of the edenic ideals. Logically their should be more functioning set apart elders today that in the first century church.

MATURITY & HUMILITY

The Bible is in complete harmony. Thats a basic tenet within theology. The Bible agrees and if there are instances where it doesn’t seem to then we have to figure out the interpretation that matches the rest of the Bible. Some will argue the above that there seems to be situations of hierarchy in the Bible.

Disciples are commissioned. Commissioned is defined as the authority granted to a person or organization to act as an agent for another. A military definition of commissioned is an appointment to the rank of officer in the armed forces, or a document conferring such a rank. Paul uses this term in 2 Corinthians 2:17 to describe his work on behalf of Christ. “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s Word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (ESV). When Jesus commissions the 12 it is to be disciples and make disciples.

Paul Planted churches and planned to return later to establish Elders for those that displayed the qualities.

Only Christ can truly commission us. Paul claimed that his ultimate authority did not come from humans but directly from Christ’s revelation to him: “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ,” (Gal. 1:11-12).

However, Paul also mentions a second trip to Jerusalem in Galatians 2:1-2 that infers submission to the local church body and likely those functioning as elders:

“Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.”

In this second visit, Paul mentions that he explicitly brought his gospel before the Jerusalem apostles (Peter, James, and John). He indicates that he had a fear “that I might be running, or had run, in vain.”

Interestingly, the apostles respond:

“And recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised,” (Gal. 2:9).

There are a few things to note. Peter, James, and John were the original apostles. We don’t have those anymore! Do we interpret their authority as elders in a local church or as original apostles? Perhaps the original apostles had some kind of hierarchy within the church as they were directly commissioned by Jesus, but even then, the model was to follow that of Jesus who was the greatest display of humility the world has ever known.

Paul was mentored for 14 years. Elders should lead humbly and in balance with other elders. Elders should display the fruit they have bore in Christ.

The Bible seems to indicate that the qualifications of an Elder be apparent over an extended course of time in one’s life. It is interesting to dig into the church in Jerusalem and find out that they didn’t have elders for at least 14 years after the church started. It naturally took that long before they had men and women that would rise into these qualified functioning members of the body. There is also a pattern to be learned here. 14 is the number 7 doubled (double portion thinking again and ironically also is a number that with 3, symbolizes a whole or completeness). When we study the life of Paul and most of the New Testament teachers this seems to be a number that comes to head often in terms of years in training. There is a Biblical example for those that lead as elders to be trained for what seems to be at least 14 years.

Everything we read about the qualifications of elders would point to someone who models Jesus and since Jesus’ perhaps primary attribute was humility, that seems to play a primary role in the choosing of Elders. Shepherds that shepherd the shepherds should abound in fruit displayed in their lives, and more than anyone lead out of humility. The problem we run into today isn’t really elders leading out of hierarchy, but usually stems from a lack of elders leading from humble life experience through complete devotion to the Lord.

Today as I lead the Biblical Studies Department at Covenant Theological Seminary (CTS), we have identified that the Biblical pattern for those functioning as set apart elders within the local church comes with many years of training as a dedicated disciples devoted to the Word and calling. It also isn’t ironic that in the Ancient Near East 14 was usually the age that the flock would be entrusted to a young shepherd. At CTS we have identified 14 years as the number that it likely takes someone who is “all in” in their ministry and to complete a doctoral degree. As I have suggested elsewhere repeatedly, a doctoral seminary degree is the closest thing we have today to signify the commitment level of the first century rabbi or elder.

TERMINOLOGY OF A SHEPHERD ELDER

Shepherd is a borrowed ancient Old Testament term that referred to a lowly position. Many churches want to apply the metaphorical spiritual role of the Old Testament shepherd to the New Testament Pastor. The problem (as I have explained) is the only time we read the term “pastors” in the New Testament it is a verb not a noun. It is the “pastoring” of communal body not a position.

In secular classical Greek (Homer, Plato, Socrates etc…) the term shepherd/pastor meant leaders, rulers, and military commanders. In the Ugaritic text of the Babylonians we find the term shepherd/pastor meant a divinity that ruled in most cases. The Old Testament also uses this term the same way when talking about the idolatry and corruption of the rulers of the day referring to them as shepherd/pastors in Jeremiah 25:34-38.

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation. (Rom. 12:6-7)

The church has attempted to use the word pastor, shepherd, elder and overseer interchangeably and as a position and it has caused a lot of issues in the modern church that simply aren’t in the Biblical model of the verb that describes how Jesus uses a believer to guide another believer into closer relationship to Him.

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered… (Titus 1:5-7 NASB)

From Miletus he [Paul] sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time… Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Act 20:17-18, 28 NASB)

Notice Elders aren’t called shepherds or pastors interchangeably in these texts, so why would we use the terms like that today? This is really important. If you’re going to use the term pastor today, it should be used as a verb. “To pastor” was “to shepherd” the people of God and could be done by those with this gift “at any time and as the occasion warranted” it never represented a position of hierarchy of rulers in the church that acted like kings, lords, or CEO’s. In 1 Tim 3 we have qualifications for local elders but not for pastors or shepherds because it wasn’t intended to be a position but rather a function of the church. Elders were entrusted to shepherd, but it wasn’t limited to simply Elders, the Elders simply shepherded the body of Christ who were also shepherding others at various stages. They were those identified as living a set apart life as demonstrated by their qualifications and entrusted to shepherd the shepherds.

Every disciple should have their group of disciples that they are shepherding.

The great command is to make disciples, and many people within the body and within different stages of their faith relationship with Christ can fulfill the great commission. This isn’t just for the Elders of the church but is intended for every functioning person in the body of the church. A disciple by Jesus’ definition was one that checked everything of the world at the door (actually the beach) and completely followed the way of their Lord. They fulfilled the function of shepherds and a royal priesthood each and every day. A shepherd in the Near East was responsible for watching out for enemies trying to attack the sheep, defending the sheep from attackers, healing the wounded and sick sheep, finding and saving lost or trapped sheep, loving them, and sharing their lives and to earn their trust. (Blue Letter Bible) This is the context of the shepherded within the Old Testament Narrative and when it is applied in the New Testament it needs to be interpreted the same way. We have no grounds Biblically to interpret it any other way or imply a different title, role, or office to the function or gifting of the original term.

One of the problems we have in today’s modern church is that we have very few people that meet Jesus’ definition of a disciple let alone that of a Biblical elder. We have churches full of fans and followers but not disciples and elders. In John 6 Jesus explains to the thousands of fans and followers what He defines a disciple as. This was counter cultural to the world’s definition of a disciple. The thousands exclaimed that this was a hard teaching and then walked away. When Jesus went to the cross, the Bible indicates that from the thousands who “followed” him only about 70 would be counted as disciples. Those disciples would eventually become the first “elders” of the New Testament church, but they weren’t the only disciples or one’s “shepherding” within the church. The only singular lead shepherd is Jesus, but we are all instruments that can be used to shepherd as Christ is in us and working through us.

ELDER RUN CHURCH

Should elders lead or run the church? Something tells me if you’re asking the question this way, you’re asking the wrong question. The body should function as one accord, and that symphony is Jesus. If you’re not looking to Jesus, you’re looking to the wrong place. Id this possible in American church? It is sad that today we think we need someone to lead us other than Jesus. Shouldn’t Jesus be enough?


A few other problems that come with the hierarchy pastor problem

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll come back to where I started. The king or ruler (which is often translated as a job or office of the shepherd/pastor) was man’s way not God’s. God established a theocracy, but man’s way was a king and earthly kingdom. 1 Samuel 8:7-22 makes this really clear. Kings led the people away from God, which was the exact opposite of what the original plan for the royal priesthood of believers was to do. It was those that were supposed to represent God who were leading the people even further away from God. Today I regrettably say that the American church is likely guilty of the same thing. Jesus wanted complete commitment to Him and His kingdom, there isn’t room for another “leader” (king – shepherd) other than Jesus.

The American church seems to enable people to continue to be in the world and encourages them to prosper by worldly standards to bring the money back to pay the pastors salaries and large debt on church buildings and structures needed to fund the unbiblical American business of “church.” We never see this model or anything close to it in the New Testament church. There aren’t salaries to fund the hierarchy of “pastors”, there aren’t elaborate buildings, and the messages are never directed towards anything other than Jesus’ message of becoming a disciple and bringing others to that place, which usually meant getting rid of your possessions of the world and just focusing on things of Jesus’ kingdom.

There are other issues besides the Pastor Leader in the modern church. Here are a few other issues:

A SPECTATOR EVENT

What we have in the great American Modern-Day church is man’s visions over Gods. Our pastors preach “at people” rather than teach face to face interactions as walking together communally as Jesus encouraged. We don’t ask the body to bring their gifts to be used, we ask the singular pastor to bring his gift to an event for show and tell. If we are lucky, we get to experience a few peoples “giftings” to set up the promotion of the main event. That sounds more like what the Roman Catholic church designed than what God asked of the New Testament body of Christ. It was never about singular events; it was about the community of those who were like minded in their complete pursuit of Jesus as the only definition to life. Worship, teaching, and accountability were simply natural proponents of regular life in Jesus.

The story of Israel showed us that when kings replaced God, they became corrupt and led the people away from God. That seems to be a great picture of the American church today. We use the name of Jesus to take people farther from what Jesus taught rather than closer. We convince people that coming to the modern temple building is what satisfies Jesus. Even just saying it this way sounds so messed up.

We are the temple of the Lord. Creating any other “temples” for God to be worshipped in is contrary to what He asks of us. Perhaps we need a roof over our heads, or enclosed walls so that we can experience God in more worshipful ways, (I can’t imagine meeting in Wisconsin in the brutal cold winters for hours on end.) In the New Testament we get the picture that they met in larger homes. I think there is a Biblical argument for believers to meet in this way but perhaps that means in smaller groups and homes. I don’t see the multimillion-dollar arguments to build New Testaments temples. When Jesus preached to large crowds it was open air and usually on a mountain podium.

To put this in perspective, God’s plan for his original creation in Eden was to “shepherd” the people to God and introduce God to the people. The fall happened and started the downward spiral. Israel is the archetype of this failure. They were supposed to reclaim what was lost but instead, basically became the example of those who rejected God and did the exact opposite of what God asked of them. Instead of leading the people to God they lead their own nation far from God and put many gods before him. Jesus came as the final shepherd to set the record straight and begin the trajectory back towards his ideals.

Many modern Christian practices, particularly regarding institutional authority, are not reflected anywhere in Jesus’ teachings. Among those practices are tithing; ordaining ministers, pastors; and other customs that enforce separation and hierarchy. In addition, Jesus criticized religious institutions as seats of hypocrisy, stating: “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Matthew 23:8)

CHRISTIANS AS FAMILY

The first century church regarded each other as family within a community of one accord. Jesus and Paul invited a context for the sons and daughters in Christ to extend far beyond your nuclear family and included people of every race and social strata who placed their allegiance in Him. We get the idea that they were so close that they regularly at meals together daily.

Acts 2:46-47 says,

“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” 

MONEY

The modern-day salaries, mortgages, and cost of “ministry” don’t look anything like the New Testament church. Most churches are lucky if 5% of their budget goes to benevolence or to help the poor. There isn’t one mention in the New Testament about using what people give to build a building. Tithing is taught at nearly every church, and you would be hard pressed to find any New Testament teaching or instruction that affirms the continuation of tithing into the New Testament. When the New Testament talks about giving, it refers to redistributing money to the poor (Romans 15:22-29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9). When Paul declares “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) for instance, it was in the context of Gentile churches giving money to poor Jewish believers living in Jerusalem. Paul devotes more of his time instructing giving to poor people than he did on the doctrine of justification by faith. Jesus also promoted giving to the poor (Luke 12:33, 14:33, Matt 19:16-30) and the primary means by which the wicked will be split from righteous on Judgment day (Matt 25:31-46).

MILITARISM AND POLITICAL TIES

Today Christianity wants to be Militant. They want to stand proudly. They want America to be treated as God’s country and justify the need for war through these glasses. Many misunderstand Expedition44’s tie to Psalm 144:1. To David this was a contronym. He avoided war with Saul who was His enemy. War and battle for David were given to the Lord. Early Christians clung to the cross where evil is conquered not by swords and spears but by suffering and love. Today Christians cry out for justice not Grace. There might be a time when we need to literally fight for Jesus, but there also might not be a time. Did Jesus ever prescribe violence as a last resort to defend the innocent?

The early church didn’t think this way, their allegiance to God’s Kingdom demoted their allegiance to Rome’s kingdom. They knew you couldn’t serve two leaders, and Rome wasn’t an option. In the same way, neither was a king that led in the same way as a worldly emperor. Jesus can be the only king of that kingdom.

WE HAVE LOST THE INTIMACY TO KNOW THE COVENANT WORD

Today Christians have more “Bible” at their fingertips than any other time in History. Be that as it may, Christians today exhibit an unprecedented Biblical illiteracy despite owning dozens of Bibles. According to one statistic, 60 percent of confessing born-again Christians can’t name five of the 10 commandments, 81 percent don’t believe (or aren’t aware of) the basic tenets of the Christian faith, and 12 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. The early church knew God’s word. Most children by the age of 14 had most of the Torah memorized. The book of Revelation doesn’t contain a single direct quotation from the Old Testament yet has more than 500 allusions to words or phrases from the Old Testament. These allusions could only be picked up on by readers who were intimately familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. Many scholars consider these short Hebrew word plays or idioms to contain complete understood messages in a single phrase. When Jesus told His disciples to teach others “all that I command you,” He meant it (Matthew 28:20).

CONCLUSION

I have to admit that today, 2000 years after Jesus sets the record straight, things look about the same as when Jesus came. The religious culture of the day seems as corrupt now as it was then and appears to be failing about as bad if not worse than Israel did. Is the American church the second Israel? I am praying that we get on the trajectory back towards the calling of discipleship to Jesus within my lifetime. I am praying that you and I are the agents to bring discipleship by the terms of Jesus back to the people of this world and begin to live out the royal priesthood we were called to be.

Jesus became the only shepherd we should be looking for. Any other pastor shepherds are counter to what he taught in John 10:11-16.

Notice that Jesus states that there is only one flock, and only one shepherd. This is almost identical to the prophecy of Ezekiel written above “I will place over them one shepherd.” (Ezekiel 34:23) We are not dealing with a plurality of shepherds in these texts. Jesus is making claim to being the owner of the flock, and the one shepherd. Throughout the New Testament (specifically in Hebrews 13:20-21 and 1 Peter 2:24-25), the only person referred to by name with the title “Shepherd” or “Pastor” is Jesus Christ.

In other words, if you want to call yourself pastor you might actually be committing adultery with the bride of Christ. Jesus warns against using titles like this in Matthew 23:8-12.

Pastor is never attached to anyone’s name outside of Christ, leading one to believe that the use in Ephesians 4:11 was a function, and not a title (as I mention earlier.) Consider John 21 where we find once again that the sheep are Jesus’s as the great shepherd, they don’t belong to the Sr. Pastor. There is only one flock, and only one shepherd/pastor.

Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”(John 21:16)

It is also eye opening when you start reading the Bible in this context and read in John chapter 10 when Jesus refers to the others who tend the sheep as either thieves and robbers, or “hired hands.”

I am afraid that the American church hierarchy of the pastor as king, lord, and CEO is exactly what Jesus was teaching against. The “lead” pastor of a church is claiming to be what only Christ can be to his church.

If your attendance goes down when the Sr pastor isn’t preaching it would make me ask, who is your church really worshipping?

Perhaps we can have a humble senior pastor that leads like Christ, but why? Seems like this has been a major problem in the church. Why would we do that? Why wouldn’t we just stick to what Jesus and the New Testament teaches.

Let’s get back to the model Jesus asked us to follow.

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Be an ambassador of Jesus: Molech and Abortion

In my 2022 book, “This is the Way”, in Chapter 10 talking about hell and framing the theory of eternal conscious torment I mentioned an ancient god or type of sacrifice named Molech (technically, it is unclear according to the texts if Molech is the act of sacrificing babies or the god himself, but I think translating Molech as a “god” is the most accurate interpretation instead of the “act”). It seems that many of my readers are/were unfamiliar with this god or term in the Bible and recently with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Leak I have gotten several emails asking if I would expound on the correlations between “Molech” in the Bible and the ramifications it may play on modern day abortion.

History is filled with barbaric cultures. One of the worst, though, has to be the ancient Canaanites, but I am actually not convinced that modern America will be viewed much differently in history books hundreds or thousands of years from now, as a nation we have slaughtered Indians, funded terrorists, stole what we wanted, and killed millions of babies in the womb. That sounds pretty bad to me. In Canaan it was customary for parents to offer their newborn children as sacrifices to their god Molech, I wonder if hundreds of thousands of deaths by abortion each year will go down in history the same way, as an utterly evil barbaric culture.

Here is the excerpt from my book:

Many people when talking about the problem of evil ask “why does God allow all this evil to happen in the world?” and “Why does he not put a stop to it?” I hear people asking that question all the time as if they think that they are qualified to somehow question the morality and doings of God. But what is interesting about the story of Israel and the Canaanites is that we have a situation where God was patient for 400 years and then decides it’s judgment day. It is one of the times in history that God actually does choose to NOT allow the evil that pervades in the world and utterly decimate it.

The Canaanites were particularly Evil. Sometimes we get stories in the Bible of Extreme cases. Abraham as we have mentioned, is our extreme faith person; the most faithful archetype of all Humanity. In the same way the Canaanites are our archetype of the most extreme evil. Just to give you an example, one of the things the Canaanites would regularly do was offer their babies as sacrifices to Molech. It is unclear whether Molech is actually the name of the god or the description of the style of sacrificing babies to any foreign God; but either way we see it as the extreme archetype of evil.

It has been recorded by the Greek writer Plutarch that when they offered the babies as living sacrifices burned to death the drummers would have to pound their drum so loud that you couldn’t hear the screaming of the babies. The statues resembled an incinerator with arms out-stretched and the babies would be placed on the arms exhibiting a slow horrendous death. What I want you to note is that God obviously had a major problem with this. It is presented as the Archetype of EXTREME EVIL within the entire context of the Bible.

Why would God allow such evil? Well, in this case he doesn’t. He says it needs to be completely Annihilated.  As you can see there is a conundrum. Many ask, “why does God allow such evil atrocities to continue on earth?” But then, if God destroys such evil, as He does in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah and Canaan, people say, “Why is God so violent?”

In the case of Molech in the Bible, God decided enough was enough and obliterated or annihilated Sodom and Gomorrah. Sort of, you see the region that was stomped out by God in Genesis 19 would be rebuilt, actually several times but throughout history will prove to always be a place of evil. Within a few hundred years it will emerge again as the land of Canaan. Eventually it would be destroyed again, and some Biblical scholars believe it would even be an act of God to eventually cover it with water under the dead sea to ensure it would not rise again, but that is merely a theory. In (Deuteronomy 9:4–5) God did not decide to command the Israelites to destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan simply because He promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit that land that had now been overrun; He commanded them to do it because the Canaanites were utterly wicked and evil people. Canaan is the arechetype of Evil in the Bible. (An archetype is a word used to describe the most extreme example of something.) If there were a more evil place on earth, that is what the story of Israel would be about, decimating the evil in the name of the Lord, reclaiming what was defiled and bringing it back to the holiness of God.

In other words, God was getting two birds with one stone here. He was using Israel to do His will by attempting to blot out the most evil thing in all of the world, the example of utter evil. But He was also doing what God does and what is the main story of the Bible. He was taking what is ugly, destroyed, or decimated by the world and attempting to purify (sometimes through fire) and renew it for good. This is ashes to beauty. That God wants to take something that is the major example of the most ugly, heinous, horrific thing on earth and turn it to beauty for his kingdom. There is a lot more that I could write here and I have gotten into more of the evil of Cannan in other videos, but I think you get the point.

There is an entire narrative to this that helps to understand what is happening described as a Deuteronomy 32 worldview. Click to watch.

Are American Christians the New failing Israel?

The problem is Israel failed. They didn’t complete the task and today many people think that is the reason why the world is such a mess. Through Jesus and the New Covenant we as Christians are now called to a similar calling to be the agents or ambassadors to bring the earth and all in it back to purification in the Lord. We are God’s tools to reclaim what has been utterly lost and decimated. How are we doing? If you look at American Christianity I might argue we are failing as much if not more than Israel did at the same task. Will we be handed over to an exilic judgment in the same way Israel was?

If you’re connecting the dots… the ugliest most horrific thing in Genesis is the nation of Canaan. Why are they horrific? Because they sacrifice babies. Because of this, God sought to wipe them out. Israel was meant to purify and bring peace to the nations yet failed, we as Christians of the New Covenant are now called to the same commission. Have American Christians utterly failed?

A God of Genocide? Total annihilation?

Maybe. We actually don’t know the answer to this question. I would point you back to my book for a more thorough answer to this question. The Bible uses a lot of figurative language and so do we. For instance, I say my 11 year old Reid’s soccer team annihilated their opponent 10-0. Did they really? Did Reid bring a sword to the game and cut off the heads of all the defeated 11 year old’s and march through town parading the severed heads of the young corpses? Of course not, that sounds completely twisted and barbaric (I am having a hard time even writing that) as it is totally not within the character of my sweet young boy. Well, the same answer falls with God. We don’t know the whole story but we have to trust in the character of God and what we know of that character for sure. God is Grace love and mercy and even though we don’t have all the answers of an event that took place 4-5000 years ago we can trust the nature of God to be complete and holy and acting for the good of humanity, His treasured possessions. Often times things aren’t likely what they might seem to us in our humanity when we fail to see through the eyes of God. Much of the narrative of the story is that we enter into intimate relationship with God and learn to walk in this trust and obedience for our lives. This is beauty from ashes and holy transformation.

MOLECH

The Bible mentions Molech about ten times. Here are a couple of them.

“Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molech is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him.” — Leviticus 20:2

“They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded — nor did it enter my mind — that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.” — Jeremiah 32:35

This sounds absolutely hideous. We read the story and think what culture would do that? How could they? But maybe at the time it didn’t seem so bad. Throughout history many females were killed upon Birth. It was almost the norm for several thousand years and is still common in China according to Mungello-1. They also lived in a culture where they believed the gods controlled things about life and that the people would benefit or be cursed by the actions of the gods towards them. As wrong as it sounds, many people and cultures still operate this way today.

Do you think America isn’t as bad? The majority of states leave the abortion law up to the doctor’s discretion described as to restrict abortion by gestational age. In New York and 4 other states a woman can literally kill her baby at nearly any time based on the same doctor’s discretion. In the same states if she kills her baby possibly less than twenty-four hours later when it’s made it outside her womb, she’ll go to prison. Who gets to decide where the lawn is drawn?

Babies screaming to Molech sounds terrible right? More studies than I can count demonstrate that babies at a very early stage can feel pain, not to mention taste food, hiccup, smile, dream, kick, and bond with their mother.

In Exodus 21:22-25 If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely, but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is a serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

The Bible interprets a baby as a baby

Luke 1:41-44 tells us that When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb. When I read the story in Greek (the language it was written in) something jumps out. The unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb is called a baby (Greek, brephos). It’s the same Greek word used to describe children outside the womb (Lk. 18:15). And we see that this same baby was already able to recognize Jesus’ presence. It is also worth noting that Elizabeth, recognizes that Mary is the “mother of my Lord.” That is, she recognized Mary’s status as a mother despite the fact that Jesus was still in the womb.

Is there another side to this?

Well, if you know me at all, you know I try to be a completely unbiased seeker of truth. So, let’s ask the question is there another side to consider? The answer is yes. Let’s consider it. Within traditional Judaism most have affirmed that there are 40 days of gestation, Yevamot 69b even asserts that prior to 40 days the fetus is “mere water.” Most ancient rabbis since the time of Christ regarded a fetus as part of its mother throughout the pregnancy, dependent fully on her for its life. But that seems to be a “worldy” notion of first century religious hypocrisy as earlier Rabbinical source would point to Genesis 9:6 prohibiting the shedding the “blood of man within man.” This is a bit grey though. In Hebrew man is better interpreted “humankind” by the Hebrew “adam” being used not “ish” which would mean man or husband, meaning that in Gen 9:6 it is naturally masculine but could mean man or woman; it is commonly regarded as gender neutral similar to how we would use the term “he” generically in English. Furthermore, it is used continually for centuries as a phrase understood by nearly every Rabbinical source to refer to a fetus.

But it still isn’t that simple, both Judaism and Christianity teach that the body is ultimately the property of God and is merely on loan to human beings. There are multiple Old Testament Laws with prohibitions on suicide, wounding oneself, and many other things that collectively serve to reject the idea that individuals enjoy an unfettered right to make choices regarding their own bodies. Your body isn’t your own, it is the Lord’s and a temple unto Him. In that scriptural sense, the baby inside of you isn’t truly yours either. God and God alone retains the right to give and take human life. In an effort to be unbiased I don’t see a valid Biblical argument that we ever have the right to decide to take the life of a fetus, that is left to the authority of the Lord only. When humankind attempts to take on this role they are actually attempting to operate in the place of the authority that is granted to only the Lord in scripture.

What about Contraception?

This is really another post (that I am not planning on writing) so let me briefly touch on it. Contraception of some sort has been around since the early pages of the Bible. Are we attempting to play God here as well if we interfere with Life? Are we trying to be the arbiters of giving life and if we are ok with that than why not control the taking of life as well? What about elderly genocide? That doesn’t sound so terrible, at very old ages most would choose that option as a humane one. Does the Bible or God pass on or give us any right to such choice of contraception? Thats a harder topic that may influence your thoughts on the above perspectives. There is an idea that God doesn’t take joy in the act of a person deciding on whether to tamper with the creation of natural life as established order by God, but it also doesn’t seem to sin. Some theologians would consider it more of bringing order to (natural) chaos which is what God calls us to do in partnership with Him as a royal priesthood. The Bible doesn’t address this subject straightforward and as some has used Genesis 38:9 to try to say that God didn’t approve, that statement hermeneutically would be out of context. The text wasn’t teaching on contraception. The Judaic approach suggests that any interference with pregnancy constitutes a violation of the commandment in Genesis to be fruitful and multiply. However, the text doesn’t go there; so that is a lot to read into it. Throughout ancient Jewish history there are various circumstances signifying the need to limit family size once a man has fathered at least one child of both genders. The Bible seems to leave this one open to natural occurrence. This becomes a conversation in human control and trusting God as well as what is natural and unnatural before the Lord.

CONCLUSION

Where do we go from here? Well first, everyone I know is a sinner, but some worse than others! (That’s another post on the problems of thew Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity though). We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s grace. We need the continued transformation to be more like Jesus each and every day. Luckily, the Lord’s arms are always open and outstretched to return to Him for healing. So, if you have made poor decisions, then you should seek to reconcile them before the Lord. Your already forgiven for them but sometimes there is some continued work to be done that comes with real healing.

Unfortunately, many Christians forget what the Love of Jesus looks like. They represent hate, hostility, and animosity more than they represent the love of Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that judgment and life in the kingdom are antithetical to one another. Every judgment we have toward others undermines the thing that we as the people of God are to offer them. Jesus came to free us from judgment and to restore our capacity to love the way God loves.

You can change the culture. You can be the advocate that brings the Lord. You can be the ambassador that brings life. You can be agent of healing. You can lead Jesus to the world and the world to Jesus. And you’re not alone. Together as a royal nation, a kingdom set apart we are called in Jesus in one accord to first bring life to ourselves and our families and then to the world. The Refining fire of the unity of believers modeling the love grace and mercy of Jesus.

  1. Mungello, D. E. (2012). The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500–1800. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442219755.

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IF I WERE A COMPLEMENTARIAN… 7 reasons

It is no secret that I am a strong Egalitarian when it comes to the Biblical sense of the word. An article here explains why and I will continue to give a short response to each complementarian point in this article. However, I see this as an issue that has good reasoning from both perspectives. I deeply respect and have lots of friends and colleagues that hold to a soft complementarian perspective. Personally, I tend to look for what God’s ideals are which we get in Eden and the recreated heavens and earth. (This is represented in the beginning and end pages of the Bible which scream equality not separated by gender roles; and display giftings are different for each person regardless of gender, but there isn’t a hierarchy according to specific gender). I think we are better placing our trajectory towards what we know God says is His way or ideal, rather than pursue what we might see in the messed up middle pages of the Bible where we see God continuing to simply meet people in whatever muck they might be found in and pulling them one step at a time towards a better place in Him. However, in defending my egalitarian view, I believe I likely also have crafted the best perspectives to be a complementarian at the same time.

Unfortunately, in our world the term complementarian has become almost a nasty word, especially from the world looking into the church. It has become associated with gender bias, abusive male dominance, and churches (and men) using the Bible to Lord over women. Those are “poor” complementarians in my opinion, but nonetheless, still complementarians. That isn’t a Biblical view. What I want to express in this article is what a “good” or Biblical complementarian view represents even though I don’t go that way. The truth is, whether you consider yourself a complementarian or egalitarian, in many ways if you simply follow scripture, both perspectives are going to have similar looking end results. Some might even say it is a matter of semantics particularly in regard to marriage. The church has the distinct difference of whether or not women are viewed as able to “lead” in positions of authority within the church.

Finally, I am going to keep this article fairly philosophical and not get too much into the specific verses. This may come off as strange to some that are used to watching our x44 videos and exploring every scripture associated with something not leaving any rocks left unturned. It is the x44 way to simply interpret scripture, and that is what I am doing here still, but more of in a philosophical summary. The reason I am approaching things this way is because we have already gone really deep into the scripture! We have a whole playlist getting into every scripture and attempting to unbiasedly interpret. Here is a playlist. I have also found that if someone has a preconceived reason to believe something, they are going to want to go that way. It is difficult to come to a completely unbiased position in theology, but that is what I am asking you to consider.

DEFINITIONS:

Complementarians believe men and women complement each other in their giftings and roles but see men to be given a position by God to lead their family and church as the Head. Egalitarians believe men and women are equal to each other in their giftings and roles.

If you can take a Biblical view of either, they will both agree on several points.

  • Both sides agree that gender is ordained by God, women and men have equal value, and abuse in any relationship is a sin. 
  • Complementarians believe men are called to be servant-leaders within marriage and the church; egalitarians believe women and men have equal authority in the church and marriage.
  • Complementarians believe women and men have distinct roles; egalitarians believe women and men have interchangeable roles and each person should function according to gifting that is not determined by gender.
  1. COMPLEMENTARIAN PERSPECTIVE: For nearly all of time Man (with a few very rare exceptions) has led everything from simple family relations to the highest forms of government. Today in 21st century America things are getting more equal. We finally have a female vice president, but still not an American president. There have been queens in charge of countries; but for the most part, for all of history man has been the dominant leader. Is that a reflection on God’s prescription from the beginning or more of a function of depraved humankind and the result of human nature towards the strong to dominate and oppress the weak. This is not a strong Biblical argument and could really be argued either way. But If I were a complementarian, it would at least be an indicator that since for all of time in nearly every culture man has seemingly been the gender in authoritative rule, it might mean that some of that came as a result of God’s design.

    – Egalitarian response: Just because men dominate as the strong beings doesn’t make it right or even God’s way. In a backward kingdom this kind of thinking might even suggest that Women will eschatologically out rank men in the new Heavens and earth, which would then make you by definition and egalitarian not a complementarian. Might does not make right, love does. 
  2. COMPLEMENTARIAN PERSPECTIVE: Men and women are designed sociologically to be different. Their differences surpass simple differences in anatomy. Women think and acts differently than men. Does the Bible suggest that God designed the majority of men to generally lead better? Today in the American culture this statement would probably be deemed sexist. Similar to the first point, this is not a strong Biblical or ontological argument, but may influence you over all feelings.

    – Egalitarian response: Women have been overpowered for all of time, they haven’t been given a fair opportunity to lead. Also, Biblically, when we consider the definition of the term “side” you find it is the Hebrew word tsela. Man and woman are cut from the same cloth; two halves of the same coin. This is presenting a “same, but different” picture of man and woman. It doesn’t mean inherent leadership roles. And yes, the above comment should be deemed sexist! There is nothing scientifically proven or in the Biblical text that suggests men are inherently designed as better leaders.
  3. COMPLEMENTARIAN PERSPECTIVE: Creation may suggest by Adam being created first to take on a role of the primary leader position. Genesis 1:26-28 suggests that man and women are equal as image bearers. Does it ever seem like Eve was almost an afterthought for God? If I were God and truly had an egalitarian perspective for the male and female that I was going to create, would male and female be created differently and at different times? Wouldn’t I create them exactly the same (perhaps even with dual reproductive ability) and at the same time. But that isn’t the story we get. Adam is created first and Eve seems like an afterthought and is described as a helper to him. Adam even gets to name her in the same way he named the rest of the animals he has dominance over. It would seem that if there wasn’t intended to be a role gender difference that the words of the narrative and the narrative itself could have been crafted better. But this is the story we are given and seems to infer a complementarian relationship.

    – Egalitarian response: We don’t know why God has done things the way He has. The story isn’t ours to rewrite and we don’t know all of the thoughts or mind of God. The Hebrew term for side would seem to imply an equal part. The word for “helper” is ezer (ay’-zer). “Deliverer” or “strong rescuer” is probably a more helpful translation. Hermeneutically the text does not establish that Adam is over eve. You might get that “feeling” based on what the world has become, but that would be reading the results of the fall into the text. The text itself doesn’t say or imply that definition.
  4. COMPLEMENTARIAN PERSPECTIVE: Throughout the Bible the vast majority of authority both established by man and God seems to denote male leadership. There were women leaders in the Bible such as Mariam, Deborah, Huldah, Mary Magdalene, Percilla, Phoebe, and Junia but they are few and far between. If God’s ideal was truly for woman to be leading wouldn’t God have made sure He established a strong contingency of examples, not just a minor percentage. Why weren’t there Levitical priests that were women? That was an office that seems to have been initiated in the way that God directed close to His ideal. Why didn’t He direct woman to lead here? That would seem to have been an easy thing for Moses to have done, there was no outside culture to influence them against it. Why didn’t Jesus pick half of his disciples to be women if leaders were to be truly equal according to God? Wouldn’t that make more sense? Jesus was already counter cultural to His day and wasn’t afraid to offend people or break the cultural norms. We simply don’t see God going out of His way to establish women as priests, apostles, or elders.

    – Egalitarian response: The world in Ancient Near East culture such as the time of the Egyptian Exodus treated woman as nothing. The outside Egyptian culture did influence the Isrealites, and Moses and God’s style of established rule. Frankly it didn’t improve much during the time of Jesus. Woman represented little more than property in nearly all of ancient culture. God’s plan was to reverse the fall. When the fall starts it begins a downward spiral in which woman unfortunately are dominated and ruled over by the stronger men. The scale only begins to tip when Jesus is crucified and overcomes death itself enabling the healing of humanity in and through Christ to begin. But it is just the beginning. God always meets people close to where they are and urges them in a small simple step to Him. At the time of Jesus what He did for women was groundbreaking. The early church took huge strides towards gender equality in a short period of time since Jesus enabled it. 2000 years later I would expect us to finally have equal representation in the field of discipleship within the church. I might even argue that according to the Biblical description of discipleship, woman today appear to be in many ways, fulfilling the calling better than men. Perhaps the backward kingdom scales are beginning to tip.

    Furthermore, let’s consider Israel. God continually let’s “man” do what they want to do. He gives in to them. Israel represents the archetype of the worst decision makers in the Bible (possibly second to Judas). Men led Israel, not God, and eventually God handed them over (you might even use the word divorced them.) So, to be clear, the worst failure within the pages of the Bible is a nation that wanted to do things their way which meant establish a kingdom ruled by men that found themselves as far away from what God desired of them as could be imagined. It was eventually men that put Jesus on the cross. Men have been largely responsible for the direction of the world to walk away from God. Perhaps in a backward kingdom it will be the women leading the way to reclaim and restore what was lost by men. It should also be noted that women played a huge part in the lineage and life of Jesus.
  5. COMPLEMENTARIAN PERSPECTIVE: Although the Pauline Epistles seem to carry an Egalitarian flavor, the main texts (I Corinthians 11:2-16, 14:33b-35, Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5:21-33, I Timothy 2:9-15 and possibly I Peter 3:1-7) all seem to plainly read (in English) that Men should and do, naturally lead the church.

    – Egalitarian response: As an Egalitarian I might concede here… If I didn’t know Greek. I have to admit when read in English by what has been heavily influenced by1611 style (men only) translation, the Bible seems to read plainly complementarian. However, when read in Greek, I would argue the opposite, it reads plainly egalitarian; which is striking considering that men even wrote the Greek texts during times when women in culture were poorly educated and represented. I would argue that if you are truly unbiased and have a decent comprehension of Biblical Greek and Hermeneutics you’re going to come out of this study convinced that Paul was an Egalitarian.

    – Complementarian Reaction: This may influence your understanding of inerrancy, but a valid complementarian argument based on Greek translation (possibly in keeping with the overall strongest complementarian argument) is to simply suggest that personally Paul was an Egalitarian, and His writing style simply reflected his personal view, not the inspired perspectives of God’s inherently created design.

    -X44 NOTE: Please dive into the x44 video series to get into each scripture here specifically.
  6. COMPLEMENTARIAN PERSPECTIVE: Marriage seems to have a head. When I read Ephesians 5 in English and Greek, I get the sense that the responsibilities of a man and women in marriage are unique to gender and different. It goes back to the way the text is written again. If the author was really trying to write that everyone is equal why talk about each one separately? Why not just use the term “husbands and wives” each and every time? It would be much better written that way if that was the intent. For example, Paul nowhere says, “husbands, submit to your wives, as the church submits its (wife?), Christ.” The text doesn’t seem to read both directions.

    – Complementarian Reaction: The text is a responsive reading to specific situations in their culture that the author(s) are specifically referring to, but also have the goal in creating circular letters and sermons to benefit other church communities. Gender might mean something in each perspective but should be read in cultural context. We have to trust that the author wrote in a way to best describe the primary mission of the text. We shouldn’t make major doctrines based on minor dynamics of the text.

  7. COMPLEMENTARIAN PERSPECTIVE: Jesus often set the Biblical record straight and doesn’t come right out and preach an egalitarian view. If Jesus meant to communicate that theory He would have made it known.

    – Complementarian Reaction: Jesus doesn’t clarify a lot of things that people wish he would have. Jesus did not put much faith in human systems to fix what was wrong with the world, nor did he try to do so in one swoop of his finger. Fixing the world, helping the poor, and defending the oppressed was His job, and the job He passed on to those who follow Him. This is the partnership that started in Eden and was empowered on the cross through the royal priesthood; that we are His image bearing ambassadors representing Him to the world and the world to Him.

-Dr. Will Ryan

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7 reasons to be Egalitarian

If you follow x44 videos at all it is no secret to you that we are [strong] Biblical egalitarians (careful not to insert the Biblical Definition of an Egalitarian, not the world’s definition). Here is a playlist. I am going to ATTEMPT to make this more of a brief and concise overview of our beliefs with plenty of links to dive deeper.

We firmly believe in striving for God’s ideals. In the Bible we get clear mosaics of what God desired for His relationship to be with us walking in Eden as a partnership with humankind before the fall. We also get a similar ideal picture of His ideal for us in the renewed or re-creation state of heavens and earth when all is reclaimed in a very similar Edenic state of equality before the Lord. That is what God says is good and complete. What happens in the middle of the story is nothing short of the worlds contamination of what was given as pure & holy. Personally, we don’t need any other reasons to consider the office, vocations, and calling of humanity as equal and undivided unto the Lord. But there are some other reasons in the middle that we think also speak to one accord, let’s start at the beginning and walk through this.

Since the fall, it has always been part of human nature to dominate and oppress other humans. This is one of the distortions of humanity’s original purpose in the garden of Eden, which was to flourish and cultivate peace bearing the image of God. Although Adam and Eve were created to equally rule & reign over the earth (to keep and cultivate), sin entered, and we have ever since been trying to rule over each other. Might does not make right, love does. Together, as a team, all men and women are to govern the earth in love, humility, and peace. Hierarchy and power struggles are and always have been a result of sin. Equality is the created order. (Excerpt slightly re-edited from Joy through Christ)

1. Creation teaches mutuality

IMAGE OF GOD -The Hebrew word for “image”, tselem (tseh’-lem) is sometimes translated “idol.” Humanity was created “…in our likeness, so that they may rule…” The NIV catches the chiastic structure (an A-B-A’ pattern) that centers the image of God “poem” around ruling. A chiasm is a common Hebrew structural device, like having a thesis sentence in English literature, it is designed to draw the reader’s attention to the center and interpret everything in light of that key point. In other words, it’s pretty clear that the image of God is deeply connected to humanity’s role to rule over creation.

This is further verified because we know that the image of God was a phrase used by kings in the ancient near east to describe themselves. God has made the radical claim, then and now, that all of humanity is royal. The image of God is the royal task of ruling the earth as God’s physical representatives. We are supposed to rule and subdue like God does, in partnership with Him creating goodness and order and beauty, subduing chaos, so that all things can flourish. The image of what this looks like in Genesis 2 is gardening. The image of gardening as the ideal of rulership and subduing is something you should deeply ponder. Make a cup of tea, go for walk and become a gardener/shepherd.

The image of God is something related to our inherent ontology, in some way, endowing all of humanity with equal value. But, it is also a task and authority that we live into. That’s the foundation in which Jesus was described as the true image of God (ex. 2 Cor. 4:4), the new Adam (adam in Hebrew means “human”) (ex. 1 Cor 15), and the Son of Man, which just means “a human” (ex. Dan. 7, pretty much every time Jesus refers to himself). He was the only one who really lived the human role perfectly. He was the human we all ought to be but fail to be.

RIB/SIDE Genesis 2:21-23 tsela is the Hebrew word that is often translated as rib, you don’t need to be a Hebrew scholar to recognize the connection to tselem. When we take a look at other instances of this word, we find that it’s a word that’s most often connected to construction, like buildings or things like the ark of the covenant. The next time we see this word come up after Genesis 2, it’s in Exodus 25. And it is used several times from then onward in Exodus as part of the instructions for setting up the ark and tabernacle. In those instances, and most of the one’s after that too, it’s referring to a side, like a half. For example:

And he cast for it [the ark] four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side.

Exodus 37:3

In the second episode of the Bible Project’s podcast series on the Family of God, Dr. Tim Mackie says what God is doing in Genesis is taking one half of the human and making another one. Man and woman are cut from the same cloth; two halves of the same coin. This is truly kenegdo, neged, (neh’-ghed) a suitable helper. This is presenting a “same, but different” picture of man and woman. But I find that complementarians seem to assume one of the differences is our inherent leadership roles. That continues to be absent from the text, and this image of being each other’s “half” resonates much better with egalitarianism. We are so alike that could be considered to have the same “skin” as the Hebrew suggests.

HELPER/HELPMATE -The word for “helper” is ezer (ay’-zer). If you search for every instance of that word in the Bible, you’ll find that Genesis 2 is the only time the word is used, as you’d soon find out, to be describing a female human, as well as the only time it’s used remotely close to a marital context. Furthermore, the vast majority of the time, the term is used to describe God, mostly in military contexts. “Deliverer” is probably a more helpful translation. This is someone coming with a reinforcing army, delivering those they help from the clutches of death. In many of my circles, we’ve chosen to talk about an ezer as a “strong rescuer”. That captures the oomf of the word better, I think.

This conversation also ties into the head, kephalē (kef-al-ay’) appears some 75 times in the Greek New Testament. It is a borrowed word, in Greek it is known as a military term and shares a similar meaning to the more popular word phalanx which was a military formation, usually composed of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, or similar pole weapons. An important aspect was that it marched forward as one entity. The head referred to the first part of the formation, guarding or revering those behind in a place of honor.

The head took the brunt of the attack. If you think of a Vietnam style formation and somebody tells you to take the lead or be the head, it’s the place of great servitude. It is also the place where there was a very good chance that you might be asked to give the ultimate sacrifice of your life itself. Yet how many times in history have we seen the person who supposed to be the greatest, the commander or the general take the lead and urge the troops on towards battle from the head. This is the mosaic of serving from the head.

When you take this mindset & apply it to Christ as the head of the church and the husband as the head of the wife, it takes on a different meaning than what you might consider it traditionally. It’s a position of extreme servitude, not just to the ones you love the most, but to everyone. It’s the greatest measure of honor towards equality within the church. It is the place that not just pastors should lead from, but the place all of us should lead from. It is a calling to the complete priesthood of believers, male and female, children and adults. (This is an excerpt from Dr. Ryan’s follow up Book in the This is the Way series to be released in late 2022 by Crosslink Publishing.)

This makes sense in the Genesis 2:18 usage, too. We are prone to choosing the way of death and destruction. So, we need a strong rescue to save us from death. The strong rescuer that the human needs is one that is “suitable for him,” as the NIV puts it. The ESV renders it “fit for him”. The NLT renders it “just right for him”. The NRSV renders it “as his partner”.

Ezer has nothing to do with women’s roles in marriage or otherwise. Ezer simply does not define women’s roles. It’s about saving each other from death. It is never again used to specifically refer to women and never again used in a marriage context (if you want to argue that Genesis 2 is primarily a marital context; moreover, in the rare occasions after this that ezer is not referring to God, it never has any hierarchical connotations.) If you try to interpret a hierarchical relationship between men and women, it would imply matriarchy. Women would be strong rescue from the top down, like God is. Kenegdo is an inherently egalitarian image. It presents the ezer as one that is the same (image) as the human, his mirror image.

2. Men ruling over women is a result of the fall and desecration of the world

If Jesus’ death and resurrection reverses the effects of the “fall” it disproves complementarian roles. In Gen 3, God is not assigning “roles” of men ruling over the women, but God is explaining the results and the consequences of sinful behavior that “will happen” due to separation. This is quoted in the context of crushing of the serpent. The indication is that all the proceeding consequences (labor, sweat, subjugation, pain, etc) will be abolished when the “seed” has crushed the head of the serpent. We are there! Jesus has put us on this trajectory so we should live as if it is so. Romans 8 says that creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed. This is talking about us living our calling as in Eden as it will result in the renewing of creation.

3. The idea of gender “roles” is not biblical. “Giftings” is a more Biblical approach.

The Spirit always gives gifts indiscriminately. Throughout the Bible we see giftings taking precedent over “roles”. The concept of “role” is a very modern point of view that only worked its way into theology in recent years after the enlightenment, it isn’t Biblically in the text. Rather than “biblical manhood and womanhood” we should recognize the giftings of each person and what that adds to the church and a marriage covenant. Body metaphors in the Bible have men and women combined- there’s not a “body” of women and a “body” of men, or even certain parts/gifts that are just for men or women.  There is 1 body comprised of believers and gifts. This is equality and oneness of the body in Christ. If you get this wrong, you get the core of nearly all of Pauline teachings wrong. God doesn’t show partiality. To prohibit the living and functioning in Christ based on gender would make Christ divided (as Paul speaks against in 1 Cor 1). It would also make God partial, which is testified against in both testaments.

4. Authority (rulership) and hierarchy are antithetical to the Kingdom of God.

Throughout the Bible we see many instances of God’s ideal that no person have rulership over another, but rather that we rule mutually. We see this in Mark 10 with Jesus saying of James and John, that they are acting like gentile rulers and not kingdom servants. We also get this narrative in Matthew 23 with Jesus and the Pharisees and Peter and shepherds in 1 Peter 1:5. We obey God alone, we submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, our King. When Paul used head in Col. 3 and Eph. 5 it’s talking about the thing on top of your shoulders and not authority. Preeminence. This fits the earlier discussion of Kephale as well. If Paul meant authority, he had other words to use and doesn’t use them. Kephele came to mean authority many years after Paul’s martyrdom. Also, considering marriage in 1 Cor. 7 everything is applied mutually.

5. 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14 were dealing with specific issues, in a specific church, at a specific time. These passages do not prohibit women from speaking, teaching, or leading today.

These passages are descriptive and not prescriptive. The command in 1 Tim. 2 is for the woman to learn which if anything should be exciting for the women, especially in the Greco-Roman context where they were treated as property. The issue in Ephesus was people teaching falsely because they didn’t know what they were talking about. There is a lot of cultural background to this situation as well. (Artemis female cult, myths, etc…) The women here were being like Eve, being deceived, and causing others to fall. Furthermore, Paul has issues with both men and women in the passage- men being angry and causing dissention, and the women being unlearned before teaching and assuming authority violently (authentein).  

Not allowing a woman to teach or have authority is a present active indicative in Greek which communicates something for a period of time. He could have used an imperative perfect to make an ongoing law about this but he doesn’t. The Greek structure is important here.

Women being commanded to be silent in 1 Cor 14 must be reconciled with all the other instances of women praying and prophesying in 1 Cor 11, 12, and 14 in the same letter. We’ve talked about how 1 Cor 14:34-35 may not be original to the text, but you’ll need to watch the video series for more on that. We’ve also talked about how women were not as far ahead in education at this time as the men. Paul is wanting the women to learn and not disrupt the service. The entire context of 1 Cor. 12-14 is about using gifts in an orderly fashion. None of these gifts are gendered, they are just commanded to be used in order for the edification of the body of Christ.

6. The Bible teaches a priesthood of all believers (not just men)

Adam and Eve were the original priesthood, Israel was supposed to be a kingdom of priests and they both failed. Now we take on that New Covenant role, are we seeing a current day picture of a third similar failure? In the NT we are called this priesthood of believers in 1 Peter and Revelation (and alluded to all over the NT letters.) 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 2 use neuter (masc/fem) pronouns when referring to the giftings and character of the elders and deacons.

“One woman man” is the only possible argument against mutuality. This is used in 3:2 of elders and 3:12 of deacons. We’ve argued this is an idiom about sexual faithfulness to one spouse and not about gender. All we need to do is find 1 Female elder or deacon in the Bible to prove that this idiom is not gendered… hello Phoebe! How could she be a “one woman man”? She is called a deacon (not a deaconess) in Romans 16:1. Every characteristic for behavior listed in these verses Paul commands of women elsewhere in 1 Tim and Titus. There’s lots of evidence of women leading and exercising their mutual priesthood in the Bible… Here’s a few:

  • Mariam (led Israel with Moses)
  • Deborah (Led as a judge)
  • Huldah (Prophet who explained the law)
  • Mary Magdalene (first to preach the resurrection)
  • Percilla (discipler/teacher)
  • Phoebe (deacon, house church leader, Roman’s letter carrier/reader)
  • Junia (apostle/church planter)

Unity and mutuality … All are one in Christ!

7. Biblical Theology and the entire lens of scripture point to God’s ideal of mutuality

We need to view the bible not as a flat text but as a narrative. We can see God’s ideals in the beginning and how they work out in the end. Unfortunately, systematic theology ignores this in a lot of instances which is one of the reasons we aren’t big fans and consider ourselves Biblical Theologians.

God works as a heavenly missionary to bring his creation forward to his ideals and wants to use us as His vocational missional representatives (ambassadors) to do the same. Our favorite line is, the Bible begins and ends with a picture that looks like Eden. If we can’t find gender hierarchy and gender roles in the creation narrative and we do see it in the Fall, why do we think it’s part of God’s ideals for His Kingdom?

Upside-down and backwards kingdom– We should take on the ideals of Jesus, yet today the church looks like the world in this area… and for some, the world is modeling the Kingdom ethic in this area better than some churches (though feminism gets off the rails at times when it flips the tables of power), but we as the church and body can do better to present a Jesus Kingdom perspective.

CONCLUSION

In the backwards Kingdom we all need to consider a position of better humility towards everyone. Jesus submitted to the Father. Children are to submit to parents. But this isn’t a gender issue anywhere in the Bible. Genesis 1-3 sets the ideal stage by advocating an ideal of men and women having equal value, dignity, and power, and only differing roles (gifts) that are either biologically necessary. Men and women are the same, but different. But there is no difference in inherent leadership roles or authority. In fact, men taking the rulership over women is explicitly stated as a part of our world’s suffering in Ephesians 51 Timothy 2, and in his qualifications for elders and deacons.

Much of this article was rewritten from Aaron at ponderingpeniel. (I apologize for the unscholarly messy quoting.) As I don’t agree with all of His views, I love so much of what he does. Thank you!

  • Will Ryan Th.D. and Matt Mouzakis
Comments Off on 7 reasons to be Egalitarian Posted in ADVENTURE

Happy Easter? You’re a few days early!

Happy Easter? Is that actually a slap in the face to Jesus if we are Christians?

I will join with you in exclaiming… Matt Mouzakis eloquently states it correctly… *happy celebration day of the resurrection of Jesus -I can say amen to that!

Here is a short video that goes along with this post. CLICK TO WATCH

To believers, Jesus is our Passover Lamb. 

Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover.?”   Matthew 26:17

Feast of Unleavened Bread – Today (EASTER SUNDAY) Christianity celebrates the day of the resurrection. Year after year I find myself begrudgingly having to decide if I am going to join the world’s celebration or run into the churches (as Jesus might have done) turning over tables proclaiming the truth! You see we as Christians really get “Easter” wrong and it is likely a slap in the face to Jesus. Let me expound.

Easter is a pagan Festival imported into the Christian church. This started around the 4th Century, but the pagan festival or Holiday itself dates back to before the Baylonians.  “Easter” is derived from Eastre, or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of spring and dawn. There also is some historical connection existing between the words “Easter” and “East,” where the sun rises. The festival of Eostre was celebrated on the day of the Vernal Equinox (spring). Traditions associated with the festival of the Teutonic fertility Goddess survive in the Easter rabbit and colored eggs.

The rites connected with the death and resurrection of the gods Tammuz, Osiris, and Adonis are the Forerunners of the “Christian” Easter; they are the first East services.

Ezekiel 8:13-16

	(13) He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt
	see greater abominations that they do.  (14) Then he brought me
	to the door of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the
	north; and behold, there sat women WEEPING FOR TAMMUZ (15) Then
	said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man?  Turn thee
	yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these
	(16) And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house,
	and, behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the
	porch and the alter, were about five and twenty men, with their
	backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the
	EAST; and they WORSHIPPED THE SUN toward the EAST.

Here the people of God, Israel, had back-slid into idolatry. Tammuz was a Babylonian god. 

You may notice when you read any of the gospels and the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection that the events celebrated are Jewish Calendar days. In Matthew we read the first day of the events is the Feast of Unleavened bread. In other words, Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the calendar God gave us not man’s calendar. Easter is Pagan. Calling is Christian doesn’t make it Christian, in fact that is part of the real problem; wanting to still be of the world but take on the title “Christian” didn’t work for in the gospels and it still doesn’t work today. One of my favorite things about Christ’s death and resurrection is that it follows God’s calendar. It doesn’t work to simply declare another day! If you’re celebrating the resurrection on Easter, it means that you have decided mans way is better than God’s and your technically worshipping the wrong god! Let that sink in!

When we start to take on elements of the worlds (anti-God) celebrations instead of God’s we miss the deeper significance of the Passover lamb and atonement. We give way to becoming another version of the world’s systems and are conformed to the patterns of this world. Are you worshipping a fertility cult or Jesus?

So I hate to be the “EASTER SCROOGE” but I am saddenned as a devout disciple of Christ that we so easily follow the world not Jesus. When most of us read Matthew and the Feast of Unleavened Bread we have no idea what that means to us and what the amazing significance and story it was in light of Jesus and the cross. Don’t you want to be on Jesus’ clock?

So I hate to break it to you but your a few days early!

In 2022 Resurrection Day isn’t until Tuesday!

JESUS AS THE PASSOVER MEAL

Any Christian will tell you that Jesus died and rose in three days; yet how does that happen from Friday to Sunday? Even a young child can do the math here.

Tradition would tell you that Jesus had his last meal with the disciples on Thursday evening and was crucified on Good Friday. But you’re going to end up with a whole bunch of scripture that doesn’t make sense if you take that understanding of tradition. And as I mentioned, even a kid is going to have a problem with the math on that one!

So, to set the record straight, there are ways that some try to argue for a Friday crucifixion but it’s incredibly problematic, personally I would say it simply doesn’t work. Three days means three days (especially from a Hebraic perspective.)

Jesus’ last meal was Wednesday night, and he was crucified on Thursday, the 14th of the Hebrew month Nisan. The Passover meal itself was eaten Thursday night, at sundown, as the 15th of Nisan began. Jesus never ate that Passover meal. Jesus dies in the late afternoon which coincides with the Passover meal on Thursday . (He was the Passover meal)

Jesus was indeed in the tomb ”three days and three nights,” scripture is also clear on the chronology of the “Last Supper” and the Passover and how the Sabbaths and festival days correlate together that year. If you get this wrong you’re going to get the whole mission of Jesus off. You’re not going to get the scapegoat Theology for Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice that once and for all covers sin.

There aren’t any contradictions in the scripture; the contradictions are within tradition. Finding the answers within the stories we have that all agree with each is called harmonizing the gospels.

If you understand this argument you’re probably asking what about the Sabbath?! As Jews know, the day of Passover itself is also a “Sabbath” or rest day — no matter what weekday it falls on. In the year 30 AD Friday, the 15th of the Jewish month Nisan was also a Sabbath — so two Sabbaths occurred back to back — Friday and Saturday. Matthew knows this as he says that the women who visited Jesus’ tomb came early Sunday morning “after the Sabbaths” (Matthew 28:1). This is not the time or place to get into this but there’s a lot of significance within the scripture of the two Sabbath‘s.

The plural usage of “sabbaths” is very important. That’s not an accident! “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away” (John 19:31). This is the topic that raises the most controversy among scholarship and can be argued for Wednesday or Friday. A high Sabbath by definition occurred when a feast day fell on the 7th day weekly Sabbath. While the seventh day is already considered the “weekly” Sabbath, the feast days are considered the “annual” Sabbath feasts (Lev. 23:23-38). Preparation day is also in contention. In my opinion, the only way all the gospels “agree: with a calendar is to put His last meal with the disciples on Wednesday evening.

John really gives us the best picture of this by displaying that Wednesday night “last supper” was “before the festival of Passover.” He also notes that when Jesus’ accusers delivered him to be crucified on Thursday morning they would not enter Pilate’s courtyard because they would be defiled and would not be able to eat the Passover that evening (John 18:28). John knows that the Jews would be eating their traditional Seder meal Thursday evening.

Those who often think or assume that the last supper was a Passover meal are mistaken. Jesus didn’t eat a Passover meal in 30 CE. When the Passover meal began at sundown on Thursday Jesus was dead literally offering himself as the Passover sacrifice. (Another clue is told to us that He was hastily put in the tomb). This is also why in Luke Jesus tells his followers at that last meal: “I earnestly wanted to eat this Passover with you before I suffer but I won’t eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:14). Some have struggled with this verse trying to make sense of it because they think he’s eating the Passover meal but it makes sense when you view that it wasn’t the Passover meal. (it’s also worth noting that the word “again” found in some texts is not in the original manuscripts). In other words, Jesus didn’t eat the Passover meal because he was the Passover meal once and for all.

Jesus shared “a loaf of bread” with his disciples, using the Greek word (artos) that refers to an ordinary loaf — not to the unleavened flat bread or matzos that Jews eat with their Passover meals. In other places in scripture it is specific with unleavened bread; if that’s what they meant I think they would’ve use the other word (azumos)to describe it.

And if that’s not enough, if we look towards extra biblical sources we will also see this view regularly supported. For instance, the Talmud says, “They hung Yeshua the Nazarene on Erev Pesach”-which means on the “eve of Passover” (b. Sanhedrin 67a and 43a).

May you be blessed today as you consider removing the leaven (all things that distract) from Jesus and solely focus on being wholly and completely given to Him as He was to the cross for you.

Comments Off on Happy Easter? You’re a few days early! Posted in ADVENTURE

WERE ADAM AND EVE THE FIRST [REAL] HUMANS? -GENESIS 1-3 CREATIONISM-

We have several Expedition 44 (x44) videos that have alluded to our views on Humanity, but this post is going to be a bit more specifically geared towards Adam and Eve and whether or not they were the first Humans.

HERE IS A LINK TO THE YOUTUBE VERSION OF THIS POST

I have been a part of mainstream evangelical Christianity all my life and graduated from Moody Bible Institute (but I am not dispensational) which is one of the most “conservative” and “traditional” Bible colleges in the country. To some not familiar with scholarly Biblical Studies this post might come off as a surprise to some challenging your traditional notions of the Bible. I assure you; I still maintain a very traditional view of scripture and am regularly frustrated by the watering down of scripture. My conviction in life has always been to truly seek the best interpretation of scripture.

With that said, one of the positions I have leaned towards for most of my life which admittingly, is a minor view in mainstream theology (but possibly not within scholarly Biblical studies), is that Adam and Eve were not the only humans on Earth before they were expelled from the Temple Garden. This is referred to as a belief in a pre-adamic race. Sometimes within this term there is a “white race” debate which I will not be touching on.

Regarding Adam and Eve we need to approach the question of whether or not Adam and Eve were the first humans and whether or not they were “real humans” or just treated as typology in the narrative of Genesis 1-3. There are also issues surrounding creation that come into play when considering these questions which I will also briefly address. The mission of this article is to explain why I lean towards a pre-adamic race briefly explaining some of the issues that affect this analysis. There are several books and websites dedicated to these discussions so I will keep this as to the point as possible.

MY BASIC PREMISE:

  • I believe God created Adam and Eve by His direct hand and in His image and that they were actual people but also serve as a typology, they were the first priests in the line of the Messiah but likely not the first people on earth.
  • God inaugurated creation in 7 days as a cosmic temple
  • The focus of Genesis 1-3 is God’s relationship with humankind and not necessary the details of building the creation. The Bible therefore becomes the love story of God reclaiming the treasured possession of humanity that was lost. (house vs home story.)
  • Genesis 1-3 (specifically) should be read in light of its intended audience (Ancient Near East Mesopotamian) culture.

THE ISSUES

There are some things we need to consider when we are navigating a landing pattern for our theology and the harmony of the lens of scripture. Here are some difficult things that you’re going to have to decide what to do with or how they fit into your overall theology.

  • Can a literal Adam and Eve agree with science?
  • How did Adam accomplish so much in one day according to the traditional view of creation?
  • If there weren’t people living at the time of Adam and Eve there are some parts of the story that are difficult to make sense of. (Who does Cain Marry, why is he fearing for his life, and how did he build a city.)
  • If you believe in a pre-Adamic race why does Paul seem to refer to Adam as the first man?
  • Typology: Does the Hebrew favor an archetype language for the word Adam?
  • Does understanding the Ancient Near East culture change the story at all?
  • Genesis has elements that were borrowed from other cultures and religions. When it comes to the bits about Adam and Eve, some key pieces are cribbed from the Enuma Elis (the Babylonian creation story) and Gilgamesh. The standard Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh was composed by a scribe named Sîn-lēqi-unninni, probably during the Middle Babylonian Period (c. 1600 – c. 1155 BC), based on much older source material. Most classical historians agree the Epic of Gilgamesh exerted substantial influence on the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems written in ancient Greek during the 8th century BC.
  • What about the rib problem? The Hebrew word “tsela” appears 40 times in the Bible, and the only time it’s translated as “rib” is when Eve shows up. It usually refers to the side of something, or “limbs lateral to the vertical axis of an erect human body.” It’s a very strange use of the Hebrew word. An interesting theory is that Eve was in fact made from Adam’s baculum. The baculum is the penis bone in mammals but human’s males are missing one. If God took a bone from Adam, then his descendants presumably wouldn’t have that bone. Men have an even number of ribs but are missing the baculum. So it stands to reason, he says, that’s the real bone God formed Eve from.
  • According to a Gallup poll in 2017, only 38 percent of adult American Christians surveyed believed God created Adam and Eve as fully human individuals about 10,000 years ago. An equal amount believed evolution happened but with God’s guidance in some way. And 19 percent of the group believed in a God-free evolution process, with Protestants more likely to believe in some version of evolution than Catholics.
  • Science is sending conflicting reports. In a major shock to those who believe in evolution, a study of the genetic code shows the human race sprang from a single adult couple. The research was led by the Rockefeller University and the University of Basel, Switzerland, and stunned all involved. On the other hand, Sheehan et al., building on earlier work by Li and Durbin, calculated that the minimum population size associated with the worldwide expansion of humans out of Africa roughly 100,000 years ago was 2,250 individuals, while the population that remained in Africa was no smaller than about 10,000 individuals. (In other words, this scientific report says there is no way all of us got here from 2 people less than 10,000 years ago. They say it is statistically impossible.) Science doesn’t agree here. One scientific report has claimed that according to population genetics, particularly those concerning Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve, a single first “Adam and Eve” pair of human beings never existed.

BASIC THEOLOGICAL VIEWS:

Literal: In this view, Adam and Eve were the historical first parents of humanity. The literal interpretation is usually associated with young earth creationism, placing Adam and Eve only about 6-10,000 years ago. For the most part this view is ok not agreeing with science that suggests the earth and civilization to be much older.

Federal Headship is tied to the Calvinistic idea of total depravity. Adam is viewed as the “federal head” or head male who brought all of humanity into sin. This view takes on a literal or historical person for Adam. They have to reconcile the problem that it was actually Eve that sinned. Eve’s agreement to do the will of the serpent represents an inversion of the hierarchical order of creation. Likewise, instead of listening to God, Adam listened to his wife and became like the serpent, eating dust all the days of his toil. Adam’s fall recalls his origins from dust: “And God formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). I think this view shares some good elements but I don’t think we can pin all the problems of the world on Adam.

Allegory is a literary and artistic device in which characters represent an idea or a religious or moral principle. Those who hold this view need not insist that Adam and Eve were historical persons. An example of the allegorical approach is Philo’s commentary  which looks at the history of mankind, beginning at Genesis 2. Typology and Archetype views consider Adam as allegory but also may agree on a historical person.

THE TRADITIONAL VIEWS: Adam and Eve were the first [real] Humans

The traditional view of Adam and Eve is tied in some part to the first point of the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity (T in TULIP). That they were tempted and fall, and the rest of mankind are plunged into rebellion against God’s order. And this rebellion is also the reason we die today. Romans 5:12 is often cited as the reasoning. Without a historical Adam, the Calvinistic doctrine of original sin and guilt does not hold together. I also tie this conversation into a reformed view of Paul’s mention of a second Adam. I also have an issue with rebellion as the reason for death. Extended life whether on earth or eschatologically is always granted by God. Without the “breath” of God, human beings die and return to dust. (Psalm 104) When Adam and Eve were expelled, they no longer had access to what gave unending life (likely a tree but also embodied as the life-giving source-breath of God).

This is a bit of a tangent, but if you haven’t read Heiser’s article on Romans 5:12 and guilt you should.

Adam’s Sin and Old Testament Theology – Dr. Michael Heiser (drmsh.com)

I will say that there are valid reasons to believe that Adam and Eve were the first Humans and that is why I use the word “lean” when I say that I favor the pre-adamic race view; I don’t want to totally rule this view out.

“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” (2 Timothy 2:11-14) And: “For indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” (1 Corinthians 11:9) Romans 5:12: “Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed on all men inasmuch as all sinned”

Death refers to spiritual death, not to physical death. Adam, being the first man to be made in the image of God, would have been the first human to break God’s trust. But still, to me the biggest reason to believe that Adam and Eve were the first “real” humans is that Paul seems to believe in a historical Adam as did many of the second temple writers and a lot of the early church. But this in of itself isn’t a “bombproof” argument for Adam being the real first human. There are some difficulties with this view. We often read the authors views on things into their narrative; Paul could have been thinking wrongly here. To better explain this, consider 1 Corinthians 7:10, where theologians often wonder if they should separate the Lord’s command in the first phrase, but only consider Paul’s personal opinion in the second? Both statements are fully authoritative, but the source of authority differs in each instance. If you are not familiar with this type of narrative theology a good place to start is Exploring the texture of texts by Vernon K. Robbins.

As it affects this conversation, some traditional creationists would continue to argue that if you deny a real Adam and real Eve, many of the doctrines in the Bible (including the gospel) would be incoherent, which I also somewhat agree with especially if you are reformed, but also believe outside of reformed theology the difficulties cab easily be reconciled. These traditionalist views are often stated in a way to divide those who think differently with statements such as stated on the Answers in Genesis website, “It’s not possible to deny a real Adam and Eve while at the same time believing the rest of the Bible.”

I Corinthians 15:22 is often cited as the next proof text for Adam as the “first human”, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” The problem with the use of Romans 5 and I Cor 15 as proof texts for Adam as the first person is they are slightly used out of theological context. In theology it is understood that if something is teaching on a major topic like the deity of Christ, you shouldn’t make a major doctrine out of a minor statement. In other words, was the main goal of this passage to say that Adam was the first human? No, it was teaching on the deity of Christ. Lastly and most importantly, if you are going to read it as making a statement that Adam was the first man, you would also have to conclude that Christ was the last man to exist. You can’t philosophically make one statement without making the other, and since we know the latter not to be true, we need to interpret the former differently and in the same way as the latter. I would encourage you to read Hesiers discussion on the idea of original guilt here. I mostly agree with it. I personally do not think that Romans 5:12 teaches that humans inherit Adams guilt. The text says that we inherit death, but not guilt.

I personally resonate with the view that Adam and Eve were real people, not just a mythological story or “only” as archetypical. The genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3 treat Adam as historical. Where I differ, is that I believe parts of the oral stories carried over for generations and rewritten into Genesis resembled stories of ANE lore.

You will often find a main defense of the historical Adam to say that for most of history we have interpreted Adam and Eve as the first Humans. There is some merit to this argument. If a lot of smart people have ended up here it might mean something! But there has also been a good deal of people in history that haven’t gone this way, and many will argue that a great contingency of scholars (those that have devoted countless hours to Biblical study in this area) don’t.

Is the story of Adam and Eve Real? Where they real people? I think the easiest answer is to say, they were real, but they also at times represent handed down lore (very much represented in near exact stories of other ANE cultures) and represent an archetype for humanity. I might also say, they may be real people, but they also don’t have to be. It doesn’t devalue the text if they aren’t. As I have mentioned previously, some theology (reformed) hinges on the views that they are actual people; but I also don’t think that all of theology comes crashing down if they aren’t real people. There are many great theologians that have worked through this dilemma. The main goal of Genesis 1-3 is to tell the narrative of love and intimacy lost with God and the need and plan for God to regain it. The Adam and Eve story is making the theological premise for the rest of the book. Heiser puts it like this, “I don’t need a single real-time event involving an original human couple to know with theological certainty that all humans are mortal, that all humans sin, and that all humans are totally helpless to remedy either problem. If Genesis 3, an important passage that communicates these truths, is only a story, the points are still clearly and forcibly put forth. Do we need Job to be a historical person to know that the righteous can indeed suffer and we must trust God for why that happens? That would be an incredibly narrow (and reality-defying) position to take.”

A PRE-ADAMIC RACE: ADAM AND EVE LIKLEY WERE NOT THE FIRST HUMANS

I want to start this with a very simple logical and philosophical argument that anyone can appreciate. You won’t need to know Hebrew or understands much about theology. It’s an argument fit for a child.

From childhood most Christians have readily accepted that Adam and Eve were the first humans. But if you simply read the first two or three chapters of Genesis like any other book (modern or Ancient Near Eastern -ANE), you would simply read it and likely arrive at a simple yet different conclusion. I love teaching children, and this has been a lifetime thought experiment of mine. Read a preschooler the Genesis story and ask them to summarize it and you know what they will say (especially if they have never read the story)? They will say that God created humans then He created Adam and Eve. That is simply how we would read Genesis based on the way we read any other story. God created humankind on day 6 in Chapter 1, rested on day 7 and then chapter 2 tells us He created Adam. Why would it be retelling the same event? According to the basic laws of hermeneutics the idea of “retelling the story again” is actually a more problematic interpretation than assuming they are separate events. We don’t read any other part of the Bible this way within its own book. Even the gospels that tell the same story from different perspectives you will find are telling separate but similar accounts. For instance, when you get into harmonizing the gospels you find that Jesus called his disciples three times, not once. In the same way, He also commissioned them three times, not once. If you don’t take this view, you have a lot of theological gymnastics to accomplish as the different descriptions of these events don’t “agree.” I have found the Bible always agrees but sometimes we have to go on a journey to figure it out. It is no difference with Genesis 1-2. Over the years tradition has (in my opinion) likely misread the texts. But I am also not very dogmatic here. I can see a more traditional interpretation; I personally just don’t think it is the “best” hermeneutic. To some this is a “go to war” or “fall on the sword” topic. To me it isn’t, it is simply about what makes the most theological and philosophical sense within the lens and agreement of the harmony of scripture. I literally have nothing to gain or lose over a view on this subject.

Genesis 2:4 says “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”

Most of you know me best for my Hebrew word studies, so let me show you something here. The Hebrew word translated as “account” in Genesis 2:4 is Toledot. Traditional Jews are familiar with this literary formula and we see it several times in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 5:1 we get this with the parallel sequel story of Cain and Seth. Then we get the pre-flood condition with Noah is Genesis 6:9, and again with Noah and his sons resulting in the table of nations in Genesis 10:11. Then it takes us to Gen 11:10 where we get the table of nations transitioning to Shem’s Descendents and then to Gen 11:27 where it takes the descendants to Terah and Abraham. From there we see the sequel in Gen 25:12 going to Ishmael. This is called the Toledat Formula and every time we see a report on what happens after the preceding passage. This is really important. There isn’t one time that we see it as a recapitulation or retelling of the same story. In other words to handle Gen 1-2 this way would be completely opposite of how Genesis tells every other story/sequel event. But even when we get out of Genesis, there is not one instance in The Old Testament in which toledot is used to retell a previous narrative in more detail as the traditional take on Genesis suggests we do. In other words treating Genesis 1-2 as a recursive narrative is simply poor hermeneutics. You wouldn’t and you don’t treat any other story in the Bible like this.

Richard Deem expounds on this kind of thinking making the point that within the traditional view of a recursive narrative and literal day view Adam couldn’t have possibly completed his assignments. “The text indicates that God planted a garden. This garden was not planted full-grown, since the text says that the trees were caused to sprout or grow (Hebrew tsamach). The amount of time allowed for the garden to grow is not stated, but would presumably take longer than 24-hours. After the garden had grown sufficiently, the man was placed into the garden to cultivate it. By this time, the trees were producing fruit so that Adam could eat. This process takes a period of time greater than 24 hours. Next, Adam was given the assignment of naming the birds, cattle and wild animals. The list includes only birds and mammals and does not mention fish or other lower life forms. Even so, it would require that Adam name at least 14,600 species (8,600 species of birds and 4,000 species of mammals). This would require Adam to name more than 10 species per minute (assuming he had the entire 24 hours). For those who believe in a young earth, it would require that Adam name not only all of the existing birds and mammals but all the ones in the fossil record also (since they would all have to be alive on day 6 – since no animal death occurred before the fall). This type of assignment would almost certainly double the number of animals Adam had to name. However, Adam did not have the entire 24 hours, since part of it was required for the planting and growing of the garden, Adam tending the garden, and God putting Adam to sleep to create Eve. Realistically, Adam would have to name at least 20 species per minute, including all the species found in the fossil record. Following this naming of the animals, no suitable helper was found for Adam. So, God put Adam to sleep, took at piece of Adam’s side, and created Eve.”

To sum up his point, you couldn’t cram the accounts of Genesis 2 into a day. This is going to be really problematic for a traditionalist. Either you have to adopt the Day-Age view (which a traditionalist won’t do) or conclude that Genesis 2 comes after day 6. The day-age interpretations says that the days of Genesis 1 are long time periods. This also opens the door for theistic evolution (which I am “open” to but admittingly do not like to do). The reason the scientists date the world to be 3 billion years old is because that is how long it may have taken God to create it. This view of creationism is called day-age theory and basically states that one day was not literal.

Personally, I don’t rule out day-age theory, but I don’t like it partly because I am a Hebrew scholar. The Hebrew word translated as “Day” is “yom” and often refers to a long period of time. But as a Hebrew scholar and someone into hermeneutics this is also problematic. Yom is best interpreted as “in that day.” It becomes an idiomatic expression. The closest thing we have in English is the word “when.” This doesn’t rule out the Day-Age interpretation, it just doesn’t give it the clout that some think it does that don’t have a good understanding of Hebrew. Because of this, it again, makes the most sense to not include Genesis 2 as a retelling of Genesis 1.

Walton alludes to this, “Since interpreting Yom as long time periods is problematic in Genesis 1, our only other option is to not put the events of Genesis 2 in Genesis 1’s day 6 at all. Genesis 2 is a sequel. Now, the fact that I think “Yom” should be interpreted as a 24 hour period does not suggest that we must all become Young Earth Creationists. I have written elsewhere that the days of Genesis 1 are part of God inaugurating the universe as His cosmic temple, that God’s “creation” of everything within the 7 days is only about assigning functions and roles, and that the 7 days come after a period of material manufacturing that precedes the 7 days.” In my estimation, Genesis 1 is, therefore, compatible with any view of material origins that the scientists may want to propose, it is how you handle Genesis 2 that defines your view of creation and the role or person of Adam.

There are also other more theological reasons to lean towards the view that Adam and Eve were not the first humans on earth. When God God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, He was told to protect (keep) it. “Keep” is shâmar, which means “to guard or protect.” So, why would Adam need to guard if there weren’t any Humans? The most logical answer is that he was to defend it from other men, most likely the ones to whom Cain fled in Nod.

Adam and Eve had two children initially, Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel and then feared for his life (he would be murdered) when banished by God, into the world. God marked him as a warning sign to others, not to murder him. Cain wound up marrying and starting his own family. Who did he have to fear? Who would murder him? The only people alive on earth up to that point, according to a traditional interpretation, were Adam, Eve and Cain (Abel was dead). Furthermore, who did Cain go and marry, since the only people alive up to that point, in a traditional interpretation, were Adam, Eve and Cain (Eve was the only female, and she stayed with Adam). Traditional interpretations would say that they populated rapidly creating lots of people (perhaps 130 years with 13 siblings if you try to do the math in Gen 5) and that we don’t have a clear timeline since people lived longer. But then we still have the issue of incest as sin, could they have been a pure seed so this “law” that was later given not apply to them according to a traditionalist viewpoint? The idea that a later law was ok for them should be problematic for you to accept, it seems like a bit of contortion. There is also the issue of Cain building a city in Gen 4:16. That is hard to reconcile and seems like a stretch, and we get no indication from scripture that God was acting supernaturally here.

It would seem that the most natural solution is that the creation of humans on day 6 was the creation of a multitude of humans (not Adam and Eve), and they were sent out into the world to populate it. That would give Cain someone to fear. That would give Cain someone to marry. That would allow for a city to be built. That would give Adam people to “rule” over. Sumerians would have been the people that populated the landscape for Cain and Science and archeology seem to point that direction.

We also should briefly consider Genesis 1:28 where God says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and Replenish the earth.” The word replenish means “to fill”, and one cannot replenish something if it was not plenished (filled) to some degree before God’s command was issued. If Adam and Eve were the only two humans, then this would make God’s instruction arbitrary and out of place. Instead, God could have said, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the whole earth.”

When you dive deep Jude also supports the belief that Cain married outside his race and not one of Adam and Eves daughters. Jude speaks to the sin of miscegenation in verse seven he states that Sodom and Gomorrah had “given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh.” In verse eleven he states the apostates had “gone in the way of Cain” and had followed “the error of Balaam.” The error of Balaam was his advice to Balak, King of Moab, to destroy Israel by allowing Israelites to intermarry with them. Using Cain’s name in parallel with Balaam, Jude strongly suggests that both were guilty of the same sin — miscegenation.

In my opinion, the main problem people have is actually a reformed problem or not wanting to open the door for any kind of allegorical interpretation. In regard to reformed theology, the underlying issue here becomes a historical Adam whose disobedience is somehow put on the shoulders of all humans and makes God wrathful and angry. That is the story of the Calvinist God that needs appeasement that I have long preached isn’t a good view of scripture and God’s character. Why would God be so mad at all of humanity for the sin of one woman and the man that went along with it? This is one area where I likely might disagree with Pete Enns take on the subject. I don’t believe that God was a wrathful God, I believe the Israelites interpreted Him that way just like all of the rest of the angry gods of the ANE culture. But I do agree with where he ends up, I might not use his words “angry or wrath” but I agree with his premise that “Jesus is plenty angry, though the object of his wrath is Jewish infidelity to God, much like the Old Testament prophets were angry with Israel (and it seems that Jesus’ hell-talk was largely, if not entirely, aimed at his fellow Jews.)” -Peter Enns

In regard to the latter, which is allegory. The Bible contains a good amount of allegory. There is no such thing as a view of devout Christians who take a completely literal view. If there were, they should have plucked out their eyes and cut off their hands by now. Your goal is to determine where the blurry lines might fall throughout the scriptures.

What about the other issues that come creeping in. As you probably know, I am big on the harmony of scripture. Your theology across the Old and New Testament should agree. Here are some other parts of the equation that will be affected by your take on the Adam and Eve Dilemma.

TYPOLOGY AND ARCHETYPE ALLEGORY

In Romans 5:14, Paul declares that Adam “is a figure (tupos) of him that was to come”, i.e., Christ. Charles T. Fritsch  wrote that “A type is an institution, historical event or person, ordained by God, which effectively prefigures some truth connected with Christianity.” By this definition we can’t say that Jesus is like Adam or like Melchizedek. Instead we must hold that Adam is a type of the true Man Jesus and Melchizedek is a type of the One Priest whose ministry is Messianic and eternal.

Alice C. Linsley helps us with this understanding, “Typology can be approach from another angle. Instead of prefiguring, a type can be understood as a shadow cast on the pages of Old Testament by a reality, embodiment or antitype found in the New Testament. According to this view, Adam is but a shadow (skia, following Colossians 2:17) of the eternal Form Man, who is Christ Jesus.

Typology must always be considered against the backdrop of the pattern of Reality. John Walton is often associated with archetype placement of Adam and Eve. In some cases Adam and Eve become an archetype only, while in other cases (such as my view) they may be considered literal people but also as an archetype.

Linsley says, “Adam and Eve as archetype does not necessarily exclude the possibility that they are also ancestors.  The ancient Afro-Asiatics regarded ancestors as archetypes and archtypes as ancestors. A problem comes when we insist that they lived as the historical first parnets of all the people in the world. When we make this statement, we force the Bible to say something that it doesn’t say.  In fact, we make it say the opposite of what it says, because analysis of Genesis 4 and 5 reveals that Cain and Seth married the daughters of an African chief name Nok (Enoch) and where there are chiefs, there already exists a social fabric, laws, traditions, language and artifacts. Cain and Seth are themselves associated with the symbols of authority.  So if Adam and Eve are ancestors, they are ancestors of the descendants of Cain and Seth whose reigns were in Central East Africa.”

Myth:  Alot of Christians consider this term to be fighting words. They consider the word itself to be a lie, but there is actually a bit of merit in exploring the view. A myth is connection of relationships. This is important because in Hebrew words connect. Many have pointed out that Adam has a connection to red dirt and there is a strange cultural context of the Genesis creation stories that is African. It is interesting that adamah is rendered as land 105 times, found 67, earth 37, and soil 6 times; it is never translated as a person. This is going to take a second to explain this because most people reading this are coming from a western view of scripture. The biblical worldview, on the other hand, allows for metaphysical realness in the Platonic sense (although Plato likely borrowed his binary idea of Form and Image from the ancient Egyptians). Genesis presents Adam as real, not in the Empirical sense, but in the sense of archetypes.  In Platonic thought, the temporal and material is a reflection of the eternal and immaterial. The temporal passes away, but the eternal can neither pass away nor can it be corrupted or changed. When you consider it this way you have no problem with Paul’s take on Adam. Paul is a great master of the method and he views Adam as the archetype of the God-Man. Adam, the temporal and material points to Jesus Christ. Adam experiences corruption and passes away. Christ is ever without corruption and eternal. When Adam was made in the image of the eternal true Form, he was made in the Divine Image. In His incarnation, Christ our God was eternally ‘begotten’ of the Father, but without corruption since His existence is from before time. Everyone accepts some typology in scripture, the question is how far are you going to go with it.

Priest, King, and Temple Theology

Why do we have the story of Adam and Eve? Here are some options:

  1. They were the first Humans
  2. They are the first in the lineage of Jesus
  3. They are simply the first people to sin
  4. They are the first priests.

The Bible just doesn’t come out and say exactly why they were special, we have to figure it out. We may have the story because they were the first people. As I keep saying, I am not ruling that out, I just don’t think it is the best option. They might be the first in Christ’s lineage and the seed that would then be preserved through Noah. They may just be the story of how sin entered the world. Or perhaps the best view is they fulfill the vocation of the image bearer; the language used to keep and cultivate and reign and rule which is what we find later in Leviticus as the role of the priest. This is the original plan of returning to intimacy with God. That the priests represent God to the people and the people to God and reclaim a lost world for intimacy with God. This seems like the view most consistent with scripture.

Michael LeFebvre offers this: In the beginning Kings and priests shared the same plan. There is a lot of kingship language here to that carries of to us in the New Testament as being Heirs. Often, readers mistakenly equate “Eden” with the “Garden of Eden.” But the two are not identical. The garden was an orchard located within the broader region called “Eden.” Note especially Genesis 2:10, where the text describes a river flowing “out of Eden to water the garden.” Eden was the larger territory of Adam’s rule and labor, in which the garden was a place for his residence. Throughout the description of palaces we are going to get similar descriptions gardens as linked to shepherds and sacred domain —including in Israel (Ecclesiastes 2:4-5; Jeremiah 39:4 & 52:7; Nehemiah 3:15).

This is referred to as temple imagery in the Garden of Eden. Adam had a priestly role. However, the priestly role of Adam is only half the picture. Priests went in and out of garden temples, but sacral kings lived in garden palaces adjacent to the temple. By this arrangement, the heavenly king (the god) and his earthly king (the deity’s “son”) dwelt together in the same garden.

This is exemplified in the later architecture of Jerusalem, where the palace of Solomon was built adjacent to the temple of Yahweh on Mount Zion. The king’s palace was literally “at the right hand” (Psalm 110:1) of Yahweh’s palace. This is the arrangement depicted in Adam’s residence adjacent to Yahweh’s dwelling in the garden overlooking the territory of Eden. G. K. Beale observes, “God places Adam into a royal temple to begin to reign as his priestly vice-regent. In fact, Adam should always be referred to as a ‘priest-king,’… [just as] Israel’s eschatological expectation is of a messianic priest-king.”

THE NAME ADAM

I am going to summarize Heiser’s explanation. If you care to really dive deeper, you will enjoy this:

Is ‘adam “Adam”? – Dr. Michael Heiser (drmsh.com)

In Hebrew as in English, you don’t put a definite article (like the word the) in front of a personal name. I don’t call myself “the Dr. Ryan.” What we get with the translation of Adam is typically ha-‘adam meaning humankind not the person of Adam.

1. ‘adam with the definite article (ha-‘adam) = avoiding the proper name, and so: “humankind”; “the man”; “humanity”; “man” (definite collective); “the human”; or “this human” (with the article having demonstrative force).

2. ‘adam with no definite article could be rendered either generally as “a man” or “a human,” or as the proper name, “Adam.”

You will find that when you read Genesis with an understanding of the two your thoughts on Adam may be impacted.

DUST AND RIB: Consider Genesis 2:7: “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground.” As Old Testament scholars Walton and Benner have pointed out, the word is very clearly dust, not clay. But dust cannot be formed into a shape. More likely this is a reference to Adam’s mortality. Psalm 103:14 states, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” If we who were born in the normal biological way are made of dust, why is Adam’s body necessarily different? It may be that Adam was born of a woman and is also made of dust, just as the Bible indicates repeatedly elsewhere. As for Eve, John Walton points out that the Hebrew word for “rib” could also be translated “side.” I also alluded earlier to a different interpretation as the baculum bone. But here the rib or side can be interpreted more traditionally as the “Eve” meaning literally Adam’s other half. Also, Adam says Eve is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Kathryn Applegate says, “Science is silent here: it doesn’t point to this possibility, nor does it rule it out. God could have miraculously created Adam and Eve in this way, but it doesn’t seem necessary to me in order to affirm a historical pair.” I will say that in Hebrew this creation of Adam and Eve seems to take on the idea of a literal event. So, in most cases, if you are going to believe them to be real people you don’t rule out that God made them directly from His hand. Obviously if you take them to not be “real” people by any means of interpretation this becomes part of the poetic story of an intimate love lost with the creator to be regained through Christ.

Heiser also comments that, “Other than Genesis 3 and then Genesis 4-5, where Adam is mentioned with respect to having children with Eve, the person Adam is mentioned only two times in the entire Old Testament. One reference is a genealogy (1 Chron 1:1).” As this doesn’t mean Adam wasn’t a real person, it does support a more archetypal usage in the rest of the Bible of the term Adam simply representing Humankind.  

SCIENCE AND SCRIPTURE – WHAT ABOUT THEISTIC EVOLUTION

Today most Christians simply decide that they don’t agree with science. That God and science (at least scientists view of how man came to exist) can’t co-exist. I have found that they can, but most Christians won’t consider a non-traditional form of thought on creation that could agree with science, and when other Christians such as myself do consider other avenues of thought, they are often deemed heretical by the mainstream church crowd. Perhaps the most simple way for a Christian to reconcile Genesis 1-3 with Science is to believe in Theistic Evolution.

If you are not familiar with theistic evolution, I will give you a very brief and simplistic view of it, although there is a lot more to it. Essentially in Genesis 1 God Creates the world and Humanity and a good amount of time goes by. Perhaps many years, or perhaps not (this is simply the place were theistic evolution finds its way into the discussion). Either way God does it. Can God choose to create something and let evolution continue the process? If you think He can then you believe in Theistic Evolution.  Analogous terms to theistic evolution include “evolutionary creation,” “fully gifted creation,” and “biologos.”

Could the scriptures possibly be in harmony with a view that God creates humans in Genesis 1 and over a lot of time God allows them to evolve? I have to admit, as someone who wants to lean conservative, I have a hard time even saying the word evolution and Christianity in the same sentence! But I have to be careful when I regularly say that in God all things are possible. Do you actually believe that? Then why would you rule theistic evolution out. You believe that God has the power to work that way. But that is the question, does it align with scripture? I haven’t gone down that road too far because frankly, I don’t think I need to. But someone that has the need for theology to match science might need to (although what science thinks and claims seems to regularly change as does theology in the same way). As capable as God is of allowing theistic evolution, He is just as capable of not needing to. Both involve a sense of supernatural power and faith in them. I personally think it is “easier” or “more logical” to believe that God didn’t use evolution. This can present a problem with science though. If you want to agree with science within the Biblical Narrative, you either accept a theistic evolution, or possibly believe that when God created the earth, he created it as if it had already aged. In other words, he had the power to create it with what would appear scientifically to look like a “history.” Both views require you to believe and accept a supernatural work of God to have taken place.

YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISM & LITERAL VS DAY AGE THEORIES

“Young Earth creationism (YEC) is a form of creationism which holds as a central tenet that the Earth and its lifeforms were created in their present forms by supernatural acts of the God of Abraham between approximately 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. In its most widespread version, YEC is based on the religious belief in the inerrancy of certain literal interpretations of the Book of Genesis. Its primary adherents are Christians and Jews who believe that God created the Earth in six literal days, in contrast with old Earth creationism (OEC), which holds literal interpretations of Genesis that are compatible with the scientifically determined ages of the Earth and universe and theistic evolution, which posits that the scientific principles of evolution, the Big Bang, abiogenesis, solar nebular theory, age of the universe, and age of Earth are compatible with a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis.” -Wikipedia

Some “creationists” believe in a day age view. This view holds that the days weren’t what we consider a literal 24 hour time span and could be “as 1000 years” or perhaps even billions of years (opening the door for theistic evolution) according to our human timeline. I have already touched on the Hebrew word used for day being “yom: and the difficulties that come with it.

I typically would contend that since the time of Adam and Eve the earth is likely just over 6,000 years old (but that actually doesn’t make me a Young Earth Creationist leaving the door open for a longer period of time before Adam and Eve and during the creation process. I am simply a creationist.

  • Young Earth advocates are not the only “creationists.” This notion has only existed since the 1990’s. Old earth Creationism has been around for centuries.
  • Different young earth organizations date the world differently. Answers in Genesis says earth began in 4004 bc, creation.com says the earth is 6000 years old, yet many other young earth organizations say anywhere in between up to 10,000 years. However, Modern science does the same thing ranging from 3 to 4.6 billion years old.
  • The early church typically held to a young earth interpretation; however, Irenaeus claimed the days were not literal (claimed the days of Genesis 1 were thousand-year periods. Justin Martyr also went with the 1000 year interpretation. Clement of Alexandria believed the days of Genesis 1 were figurative in the same way that Philo of Alexandria explained an instantaneous creation. St Athanasius, Origen, and St Augustine also believed this. Augustine claimed that all 7 days were called 1 day in Gen. 2 and therefore were not literal days. He believed in the narrative structure of Genesis 1 and took it figuratively (non-literal reading) as did all of these early church fathers.
  • Newton and Kepler both aged the world to be about 4000 years old according to the research of their time.
  • According to Numbers and Rupke many Christian colleges taught evolutionary theory for decades up until the 1920’s. Organized resistance to evolution (namely Darwin) began in the 1920’s. The Schoefield reference Bible claimed the Gap Theory. William Jennings Bryan (prosecutor in the scopes trial) was a proponent of the day age theory.
  • Young Earth became popularized by the 7th Day Adventist Movement in the mid 1900’s. (Argued for a Young Earth not Young Universe)
  • The age of the earth in regard to the interpretation of Genesis has not been very disputed until the last 50 years. Christianity has always been compatible with many different interpretations of Genesis.

GLOBAL OR LOCAL FLOOD

As long as we are on Controversial Genesis topics, let me quickly address the flood. Does it matter? Maybe. For some people they can’t accept the Biblical story and therefore, accept God’s plan for them because they believe Science geologically proves a global flood never happened. Science would also tell you that the last time the entire planet was covered with water was over three billion years ago when land did not yet exist, let alone humans. Again. could God have created it over that much time and could the flood of Noah have been a more local flood? I would say that is possible. It is a view that allows nearly everyone or every theory to agree. Perhaps there was a global flood when God started and created it, aren’t we told that in Genesis 1? Why couldn’t the flood of Noah have been more local? I personally don’t get caught up here. I don’t know. But I know if it happened God was there and likely the one doing it! I am not going to get hung up on local or global flood. Personally, my take is a larger local (nearly global) flood.

Jeremy Christian points out that “Even in the traditional context this would not make sense as the flood occurred just 10 generations after Adam. So Adam’s descendants could not have populated more than a small portion of the Earth. There would be no need in that sense to flood the entire planet. Not to mention the fact that the authors of the bible would have no sense of what global really means as the entirety of the Earth from their perspective was the land they lived in.”

CONCLUSION

We mostly struggle with the concept of Adam and Eve and ancient things because we think in terms of western cosmology and Platonic logic. We don’t think like the ANE authors of Genesis did. We want to read the Bible like a history or science book and that simply isn’t what the Bible is or how it was intended to be read. The Bible describes the earth as sitting above deep waters with spheres connecting the heavens. Does this make the stories mythology? In most cases God meets people and even allows them to be part of the story. Sometimes that means borrowed words, and ideas become part of the story and we find that God in his mercy goes along with a lot of man’s ways. We want to read the Bible like a textbook, but that doesn’t work. The nature of God and his mission to reclaim what was lost reads a whole lot more like a love story that isn’t overly concerned with painting any other pictures. To get the whole story we have to find our place in the culture. I like the image and words used with it by Skip Moen, “A God who delivers a message of vital importance in words that no one understands is either cruel or ignorant. YHVH is neither. Therefore, our task is to understand the meaning within the original culture. David wrote about a cosmology that he thought described the universe. It was true for his paradigm. It just isn’t true for ours. But then, again, perhaps David wasn’t actually writing science at all. Perhaps we are the ones who have forced the biblical texts into boxes from our paradigms, boxes that were never imaginable in the world of the ancient Middle East.”

Our goal should be to understand the story as it was given to the intended audience and figure out how we are impacted and fit in. What does God desire of you based on the story we are given? As you explore the possibilities, I pray that you will find you are also falling in love with the Word and the Word is Jesus. This is the pre-emanate calling of the New Testament, to grow deeper in intimacy with Jesus and lead others to also embark on that beautiful journey.

May the Lord Bless you and Keep you. -Dr. Will Ryan

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